Michael ‘Sonny’ Murphy was an Irish middle-distance runner. He competed in the men’s 3000 metres steeplechase at the 1932 Summer Olympics, writes PADDY RYAN
Our Olympic heroes are now back on their native land which they represented so well in Tokyo. They have done us proud. While the honour and glory of winning a medal is beyond words, my thoughts are with those athletes who, despite their best efforts, did not manage to make the top of the board. Hopefully, some of them will compete nearer home in a few years.
There have always been winners and those who did not win, like the ill-fated Michael ‘Sonny’ Murphy who not only represented Ireland at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 but returned home with serious health problems.
As Sonny Murphy’s story reveals, our athletes thankfully have come a long way from those difficult years of the first decade of the Free State when supports were minimal and corporate sponsorship was not even a glimmer on the horizon.
Michael ‘Sonny’ Murphy was born in 1906 in the townland of Ballycashen, a mile or so from Kilnaboy in County Clare. It is a landscape more like Galway with stone walls dividing small upland fields that overlook picturesque Lake Inchiquin. The budding athlete would have done his early training over these unforgiving fields and roads.
In the late 1920s, Sonny joined the O’Callaghan’s Mills club and was a regular winner of middle-distance events. In 1931, he won the Munster title, today the equivalent of the 1,500 metres. In the same year, he went on to win the Irish Mile championship at Croke Park.
The following year — a most memorable year in Irish history when Fianna Fáil came to power and the fledgling Free State hosted the Eucharistic Congress — Sonny Murphy, at the National Junior Championships in Limerick, showed the same resolute determination that had seen his fore-fathers’ survive on their rocky smallholding above the lake.