A night fit for a Wicklow legend
GAA President pops in to big bash
■ WICKLOW'S most decorated hurling hero Eamon Murray celebrated his 80th birthday with a big party in the Grand Hotel Wicklow on Saturday night.
Topping the guest list at the function was GAA President Liam O'Neill who spoke in glowing terms of Eamon's career on the playing fields of Ireland and London.
There too to offer the congratulations of all Wicklow Gaels was the former chairman Mick Hagan. Wicklow's Central Council rep Jackie Napier, a long time colleague of Eamon's on hurling committees, also spoke on the night.
Eamon Murray started his hurling career in his native Avoca and won his first hurling championship at Junior level in 1950 at the tender age of 17. He was a star player on the one and only Avoca team to lift the SHC in 1953 but then as now the emigrant ship was beckoning.
In 1955 he packed his bags and headed off to London to work on the buildings. Billy Lawless and Sean O'Farrell tried to persuade him to stay. “They asked me not to go yet, that if I stayed as I might get on the Leinster Railway Cup team. But the papers were screaming come to London if you want to win All-Ireland medals,” he said with a smile.
He spent the next 40 years of his playing career in London where he joined the Brothers Pearse club. He holds a number of records set in that city.
First of all he is the only player to have won six Senior hurling championships with the club and also won six Senior hurling leagues. His biggest achievement of all was winning six All-Ireland medals in Junior and Intermediate grades, five with London and one with Wicklow. In fact Eamon played in 13 All-Ireland hurling finals in all, that is counting replays.
When he returned to Ireland in retirement in 1995 he again joined forces with his old club in Avoca.
Now while retirement to Eamon meant retirement from his nine-to-five job, it certainly didn't include retirement from the sport he loves so dearly.
He won a Junior B championship with Avoca in 2000 and a Junior A championship in 2001, a playing career at adult level spanning 51 years. He captained the Wicklow's Junior team that beat Westmeath in the Leinster final of 54, a first ever win for the Garden County.
Eamon also had a career as a referee of quality. Top of the matches that he likes to talk about was three hurling finals in Wembley.
He also continued refereeing when he returned to Ireland and in fact refereed his last match just two years ago; that surely should have been Eamon's cue to retire from the game.
Not a bit of it! Eamon still runs the line when the occasion demands and regularly dons the white coat to do umpire in Aughrim and other venues throughout the county.
Eamon attributes his long and successful hurling career to the fact that he never smoked or drank.
Off the playing field Eamon has picked up very prestigious awards. Head of that list has to be a remarkable double.
He was selected on Wicklow's Team of the Millennium while in London he was also selected on London's Team of the Century where he was in the company of players from most of the top hurling counties in Ireland.
In fact he was the only player from what you could describe as a second grade county to be so honoured.
He received the Hall of Fame Award in Wicklow and a B & I and Irish Post Awards in London.
Eamon was also a useful footballer and won a number of county titles in London. One of his fondest stories was playing with his grandson in a football match before he retired.
One of my fond memories of the man was of a day when he was a fully togged out linesman at a match in Aughrim.
During a break in play he slipped over to where I was sitting and handed me an envelope.
It was an invitation to his 70th birthday party the following week.
Ten years on Eamon could well have repeated that extraordinary feat if the occasion arose.
They don't make them like Eamon any more!
Eamon and Jean Murray with GAA President Liam O’Neill at Eamon’s 80th birthday party in Wicklow Town.
Eamon performing one of his many roles within Wicklow GAA over the years.