Former Ulster GAA president Martin McAviney pays tribute to his “friend and mentor” Danny Murphy...
I FEEL lucky to have shared the same stretch of road with Danny Murphy for the last 30 years.
Danny was a friend and a mentor.
If I needed advice or a guiding hand, Danny would have been one of the first people I would talk to. I always listened to Danny and I always trusted him.
Our paths first crossed over 30 years ago. I remember the first time I encountered him.
It was at an Ulster Council meeting. Initially, I'd mistaken him for Tom O'Hare who won an All-Ireland with Down in 1968.
If you asked me, who else was at that meeting I couldn’t tell you, but I do remember Danny was there.
I ended up serving 30 years alongside Danny, so he had a massive influence on me when I was starting out and he had a massive impact on my time serving in the GAA – from being an Ulster Council delegate through to being President of the Ulster Council.
I’ve shared that whole journey with him and I have learnt from him right the way through.
It's safe to say he left an indelible mark on me and everyone he worked with.
And I can say without fear or favour that Ulster GAA wouldn't be in the healthy state it is in today without Danny Murphy's massive contribution.
Not everyone will remember that he took the secretarial reins at a very difficult time for the Council.
We couldn't have asked for a better man at the helm.
To do what he did to where we are today is an outstanding achievement. What stood out for me was his word was his bond.
He had absolute integrity.
The GAA was his second family. His work-load would have been way and above nine to five. Everything he did was for the betterment of the GAA.
When we travelled to places together, our conversations would occasionally veer off the GAA track .
One-to-one, Danny was very pleasant company. He never drank or smoked.
His other life passions were photography and travelling. His faith was hugely important to him too.
He also had an insatiable interest in tracing his family tree.
He had family that emigrated to Canada, a place he visited many times, and was instrumental in helping promote games in the country.
Danny was well travelled and well read. There was nothing he didn’t know anything about.
It was on those journeys I really got to know him.
He'd a great memory for characters in the GAA and stories.
As I'm sure our colleagues in the media would verify – you knew where you stood with Danny.
Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, at least he told you where he stood.
Isn’t that a great trait to have?
You didn’t have to second guess Danny. I think we could do with more people of his ilk in the Association.
Danny was a man of vision, someone who had a keen eye on the bigger picture.
When change was required in the GAA, Danny ensured that Ulster Gaels weren’t found wanting.
He was a big player in the Association’s rule changes of recent years.
And the things that I wanted to do in terms of community relations he was always great to talk to, a great sounding board. He definitely believed in taking everybody with us.
If you wanted to achieve something, whether it was for the GAA or the wider community, he took everybody on the journey.
His deft hand was felt on a deeper level when the Peace Process came about.
He knew the crucial role that sport could play – the role the GAA could play – to help the political process because it wasn’t going to work without people taking ownership of it and making it work, and it was important to him to forge links with the Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby.
Danny had been fighting cancer for a number of years. It was a tough time for him. I wanted to see him take more time to himself but retirement was never Danny's thing.
In my estimation, he beat cancer three times. It was typical of Danny. He knew as much as the doctors knew about his illness.
He had a strong bond with his brothers and sisters and he was always talking about his nephews and nieces and how well they were getting on, but the GAA was his other family.
I know the staff at the Ulster Council officers are heartbroken
He built a very strong loyalty base and you don’t get that without being a good person.
Without Danny Murphy, we wouldn’t have played as big a part in modern GAA in Ulster, the successes that we’ve had and the bigger part that we played in the whole community.
If everybody else put in as much effort as Danny, society would be in a better place.
He understood the importance of his civic role and he helped break down barriers.
Bringing Ulster GAA from where it was to where it is today – our great facilities, the success of our teams and where our clubs are now and how we run our business – that’s Danny’s legacy.
I was on the road with Danny for 30 years. I always trusted him and he always inspired me.
I lost a good friend, a good GAA friend, who taught me a lot. And the Ulster GAA family will feel his immense loss too - but we will never forget his ceaseless contribution.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam