GAA Football

Michael Murphy and Martin O'Reilly's Mayo heritage

Michael Murphy's father says there is no conflict of interest in the Murphy household even though the ex-Garda is a Mayo man by birth
Gerry Maguire

They both may be Mayo by birth, but it’s now clearly Donegal by the Grace of God.

In the 1970s two young gardai from the far West came to Donegal with loads of GAA in their DNA.

Mayo has always been a great county for gardai and burly builders but also has close ties with Tir Chonaill on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Michael Murphy Snr and Terry O’Reilly came from Belmullet and Ballina in 1975 and 1974 respectively, to Ireland’s loveliest county. Michael brought his love of GAA to Burt, Milford, Glenswilly and he even founded a club called Aileach on the Inishowen Peninsula.

And Derry greats like Tom McGuinness and Gerry McElhinney lined out for Mick and his team on memorable weekends in Glasgow when they went to support Glasgow Celtic in those hairy days of clumping platforms and really dodgy hairstyles in the mid-70s.

Terry played centrefield on a Sean MacCumhaills team that won a Donegal county title in 1977 and he also won an intermediate title with neighbouring Glenfin in the 1980s.

Fast forward almost 40 years and Michael Murphy Jnr and Martin O’Reilly are proudly wearing the green and gold of Tir Chonaill.

And while both Michael Snr and Terry are very proud Mayo men, there will be no real conflict of loyalty when Tir Chonaill locks horns with the Westerners in Ireland’s great Gaelic Colosseum.

Michael Snr was weaned on Mayo greats like John Morley, Joe Corcoran, Seamus O’Dowd and the Loftus clan. But for 40 years he has been steeped in Donegal GAA and has closely followed the footballing fortunes of his famous son Michael, who has become Donegal’s treasure.

“I have followed Michael’s career with great interest and coached him from a very young age.

"He was always totally committed and devoted to the game but he had problems with his hips and needed an operation when he was barely three years of age.

“But he got over that thank God.

“I remember after every match he used to make a beeline for John Joe Doherty to get his autograph and John Joe always obliged.

“Anthony Molloy was also a big idol of his and he still is.

“As a family we are very proud of Michael, he sets himself very high targets and works very hard to achieve them.

“We are just so very lucky to have him.”

Today, Michael Murphy leads out Donegal against his father’s native county and Michael Snr believes Donegal can prevail in a match that could come down to margins.

“I believe Donegal has better forwards and defenders than Mayo but it will be very tight.

“Donegal also has a better scoring spread and have players who are very versatile.

"They say that Mayo is a very big powerful physical team but Donegal are just the same.

“It was very disappointing to lose against Monaghan but that was due to some very unusual inaccuracy.

"The lads played very well against a good Galway side and Michael showed that he was well over his niggling injury.

“That was also a fairly good Galway team that ran Mayo to a few points in the Connacht Championship and I thought Neil McGee and Eamon McGee did a very good marking job on Damian Comer and Danny Cummins.

“We can win, but it could all come down to thin margins, or a little bit of luck.

“But really this is a very special bunch of Donegal players and it is just so great to be able to witness this golden era”.

Meanwhile, over in Ballybofey, Terry O’Reilly is looking forward to seeing his son Martin performing at Croke Park. The lightning 22-year-old wing-forward made his debut under Jim McGuinness at the tender age of 19 three years ago. 

"When Martin was much younger he wrote down that he had two ambitions.

“One was to play for Donegal and the other was to be a teacher.

"Thank God he has achieved both and it has been a very exciting time for him since he first played for Jim McGuinness in a Dr McKenna Cup tie back in 2012.

“It is a great time for Martin to be involved with Donegal over the past four years as there has been such great success.

"I am from Glenlara outside Belmullet and will never forget where I am from but I am living in Donegal longer than I was in Mayo.

“And I am sure my many Mayo friends will understand that I am not deserting them when I say I will be supporting my son on Saturday”, said Terry.

“Martin was always very dedicated from a very young age and is just so happy to be involved.“

"He started last week against Galway, but nowadays it is all about the squad and rotating players and reacting to all the different scenarios that will be thrown at you.

“Martin is a good pacey player and we are all very proud of him and his older brother Steven has won several All-Ireland boxing titles.

"The past few years have been wonderful times to be involved with Donegal and Martin has an All-Ireland medal and Ulster medals even though he is still only 22.”

Martin travels from Dublin for training and even though it is quite a long commute he shares the driving with Paul Durcan, Paddy McGrath and Hugh McFadden.

Today, Martin and Donegal will be eyeballing a Mayo side that inflicted a heavy defeat on Donegal at a similar stage two years ago. Terry O’Reilly is well aware of the threat of his native county but feels Donegal are well placed to advance.

And he said he was not worried that Galway was about to pull away from Donegal last Saturday after a choppy second quarter for Tir Chonaill.

“If you remember the Ulster final, Donegal was five points behind Monaghan early in the second half, but they came back and only lost by a point.

“This team does not die and I think there is no reason why we can’t beat Mayo.

“Donegal had a very tough passage through Ulster as they had to beat Tyrone, Armagh and Derry even before they played Monaghan.

“I think that will prepare them for Mayo.

“And of course we have Michael Murphy who will always draw a lot of attention from a number of players from the opposition.

“I think the Mayo defence is vulnerable. They seem to be conceding too much too easily.

“This was very apparent against Kerry last year even though they played really well.

“The full-back line looks vulnerable and even though they scored a lot against Kerry, they also conceded a lot so hopefully Donegal can capitalise on that.

“And if Donegal take this one they will be hard to stop.”

Indeed and two ex-Mayo gardai will be going home to Donegal with smiles as broad as the Atlantic.


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