WE have spoken before of people who have made substantive, yet unrecognised contributions to their club and sport.
Tony Murray, who is affectionately known as Cuddles’ to his family and friends, is one such person. He has maintained the drive over the years, as well as taken the extra mile, to make all the difference for the club he loves, Blackpool Celtic.
Recently, I caught up with Tony and we had a great chat about how it all started for him back in 1985.
It all began that year in The Blackpool Tavern, which was owned at the time by the late Dessie Donnelly and his wife, Betty.
“I was sitting in the company of Kieran Murray (treasurer) and Jimmy Howard (secretary), who were both great players in their day, and as the conversation progressed, I got really taken with what Kieran and Jimmy were saying about the way the club was going, so, it became very easy for me to get on board and join up with a very ambitious bunch of guys.
“At that time, we played all our home games up near Garvey’s Bridge, where many an exciting encounter was witnessed.
“I’ll always remember the barrel at the side of the dressing room and how it proved afterwards that we were way ahead of our time with ice baths for the players.
“We had many a laugh about that over the years,” said Tony. “Unfortunately, we had to leave our memories behind there and moved up to the H&H, where we spent the next few seasons.
“We then made our next move to Kilcully, which was alongside the scout’s campsite. This became a significant move for us, as we spent the next 20 years out there, playing football in the AUL.
“The pitch was not the most level, but, over the years, we got the playing surface up to a fantastic standard,” said Tony.
Tony did not want to say it, but the main reason for the pitch being in pristine condition was the effort and energy he put into it, week in, week out.
However, Tony told me that he took pride in some of the letters he received from AUL referees, commending him on the facilities and what a pleasure it was to officiate games there.
Tony makes special reference to the great Eddie Mullins as being one of those officials who really enjoyed refereeing there.
“After the Blackpool Tavern closed, we had to seek out another base and sponsor, so, we moved to the Bowlers’ Rest, where the late Denis ‘Bowler’ Murphy was outstanding with us.
“Over the years, we’ve had a bit of success, which really is not the most important thing to us, but we’ve certainly celebrated it.
“After being promoted from Division 3 to the Premiership in successive seasons, we also did the double under Conor Foley. Then, we did back-to-back cup final wins under my son, Shaun. In more recent times, we won promotion under our current manager, Dave Cummins,” said Tony.
“On the social side of things, we’ve had unbelievable trips, which have taken in Carlow onwards to a big trip to Swansea, which was so efficiently organised by Kieran Doherty.
Nothing fills me with more pride than seeing some of the best players in Cork wear the club’s crest. Over the years, we have seen many great players perform with this club.
“I hate naming players, as there is always the possibility of leaving someone out, but there was Jimmy Driscoll who was one of the best ever, Paul Crowley, Alex Duke, Ken Landon, Kieran O’Callaghan, Derek Power, and Brian Lawless, who is still giving it his all with the current side.
“As I push on towards 80, it’s time for the younger breed to pick up the reins, but my hope is that they have as much fun and enjoyment as I’ve had in my time so far. You’ll still see me on Sunday mornings in Popham’s field, watching the lads and keeping a close eye on the match balls.”