IN the long list of GAA greats, Nemo Rangers’ Brian Murphy is right at the very top.
In fact, there would be an argument to have him right at the pinnacle of the pile.
His phenomenal record of success speaks for itself, an All-Ireland winner in every grade that he played in from minor to senior in both codes.
In the days of the dual star, he had very few equals, one of the most decorated individuals in the history of the association.
Both at club level with his beloved Nemo and in the red of Cork, he was a defender of the highest quality, the holder of four Celtic Crosses following on from a stellar career at minor and U21 level.
A couple of years ago some of the greats of both codes were present in the Nemo complex to pay tribute to his achievements.
It was a richly deserved tribute, one he knew nothing about until he walked through the front door of the iconic Southside club.
This week he took some time out from his home in Kilkenny to reflect on the times when he was a defensive prince.
He told The Echo how fortunate he was to play with and against great teams and great players.
“I was privileged to play with and against the best and to have had the guidance of great mentors, from my school days in Críost Rí right through to the Cork seniors hurlers and footballers.
“You had people in Críost Rí like Brother Diarmuid and Dick Tobin. It was a great GAA nursery and I played on some really good teams there.
“We won a Harty in 1968 when we stopped Limerick CBS from doing five in a row.”
Everything he won with the school and as a Cork minor hurler and footballer and subsequently as an U21 star was a stepping stone to what was achieved in 1973 when the Cork footballers ended a 28-year famine by bringing the Sam Maguire Cup back to Leeside.
“That was a great victory with a great team. We should probably have won more because you had great people on the field and off the field.
“Donie Donovan was a very good coach, somebody ahead of his time back then. Billy Morgan was a great captain but it was a team with a lot of leaders on it.
“Sadly, a few of them are no longer with us, Connie Hartnett, Humphrey Kelleher and our own Seamus Coughlan.
“There was a good blend in that team, a few of them had been there in 1967 when Meath beat Cork and that blend was very important.”
The ’70s were very good to Cork and to Murphy himself.
“Without a doubt, I was fortunate enough to win four All-Irelands in that time.
“We won the three-in-a-row in hurling, ’76, ’77 and ’78, a great time for the county and we had great hurlers in that era.
“We were fortunate to have great men on the line too, Christy Ring among them. To be involved in a team that he was involved with was a great privilege.
“He had such a great knowledge of the game, you just had to listen to him. I think it was before the ’78 final against Kilkenny and what knowledge he had to impart on us about the various players they had.
“He was a genius of a man where hurling was concerned. Justin McCarthy was another person who as a coach was ahead of his time.
“You had Kevin Kehilly as a top physical trainer, another person ahead of his time in that field.
“There were some great hurlers on those teams and it was great to be part of it because you had very good teams coming up against you.”
Murphy, as good a defender, that ever wore the Cork jersey faced some of the best forwards in the game in those years.
“Yes, in Kerry you had the likes of John Egan and Mike Sheehy. Of the six forwards they had then, you might hold four of them but the other two would do the damage.
“Dublin’s Jimmy Keaveney was another great forward, there were great forwards around then and you could not take your eye off them.
“In hurling, I came up against great forwards too, Eddie Keher, Babs Keating. I remember watching them play and now I was coming up against them.”
His working life was spent in the Garda and he remembers his days in Templemore when it was very difficult to get time off for a game.
“I was lucky because the chief there back then was a fellow called Mick Enright. He was a great GAA man so we were able to get leeway to get time off for the games.
“That’s the way it was, even as a Garda you depended on the support of other fellows to get time off for games.”
He’s been domiciled in Kilkenny now for many years, always a Cork man but buying into the scene down there too.
“I have been involved with O’Loughlin Gaels for many years now, a great club. Two of my sons played and won county titles and Leinster titles with them.
“My two girls played camogie in the club and I have had great times there.”
All the medals, the All-Stars and all the rest are in safekeeping now but it’s the memories and the great friendships that were forged that endure.
“Without a doubt, I was lucky and privileged to have had a great career in both hurling and football with Nemo and Cork. I made some great friends and that was the big thing.”
Without doubt, one of the Cork GAA’s greatest ambassadors on and off the field.