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Ireland's Rugby Giants: Noel Murphy

Noel Murphy is part of a unique rugby dynasty in Ireland. Both his father, (also called Noel), and his son Kenny were selected for the Irish team making them the only three players to be members of this elite club.

Noel, or ‘Noisy’ as that most colourful of rugby writers the late George Ace always referred to him, won forty-one caps in an eleven-year career starting in 1958. Initially he was an open side flanker. Later in his career he mainly featured on the blindside. He was devastatingly effective in both positions. He also has an eye for an opening, once famously scoring a hat trick of tries against Canada, as the Lions returned home from a tour of Australia and New Zealand in the late Fifties.

He toured ‘Down Under’ on two occasions. The first was as a twenty-two-year-old tearaway in 1959. His exuberant style immediately endeared him to the notoriously hard to please Kiwis. But then ‘Noisy’ possessed all the qualities the New Zealanders admire in a rugby player. He was tough, mentally as well as physically. He never gave the opposing half-backs time to settle on the ball. Plus he hit opponents like an express train in the tackle. His eye for an opening, possibly sharpened from his formative years as a scrum half at school, surfaced as well on that tour. He finished with five tries in eighteen matches.

His Ireland career included five games as captain and it ended in disturbing circumstances in a Triple Crown decider in Cardiff in 1969. That was to prove to be a big year for Wales in sport. Aside from their Triple Crown success the cricketers of Glamorgan also won the County Championship. But the Cardiff result left a sour taste in many Irish mouths.

Murphy was removed from the fray under somewhat dubious circumstances. Welsh lock Brian Price punched ‘Noisy’ so hard that he had to retire on the day with blood streaming from him. He never played again in an Ireland jersey. What rankled so much with Ireland’s team and supporters was the fact that they perceived Price as a homer. He was fine dishing out the physicals at Cardiff Arms Park but when he had come face to face with Colin Meads in New Zealand he was a shrinking violet.

Nobody could ever question Murphy’s courage. He played the same way for Cork Constitution as he did for Ireland, the Lions or the Barbarians. Be that home or away.

After finishing as a player Murphy coached Ireland in the late 1970s and coached the Lions in South Africa in 1980. Since then he has been President of Cork Con, the Munster branch and the IRFU. But to colleagues from his playing days he will be forever ‘Noisy’. The moniker is easily explained, according to Ray McLoughlin. “It didn’t matter if he was captain or not,” explained the front row gurrier. “He never shut up!”

Ireland's Rugby Giants From the Appletree Press title
Ireland’s Rugby Giants by Ivan Martin

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