Seán Creedon talks to former ‘Gunner’ Johnny Murphy


It’s often said that a picture paints a thousand words. Looking at the photograph on this page of four teenagers in the early seventies, you will recognise three of the quartet, David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady, just before they joined Arsenal Football Club.

All three went on to have great careers with the North London club and other English, French, Dutch and Italian clubs; between them the three Dubliners won 211 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

But who is the shy looking lad at the start? It’s Johnny Murphy, who quit ‘The Gunners’ after six months, came home to Bray and went on to play senior rugby for Ireland.

The good news is that Johnny, who is now 65, is in good shape, working in the family undertaking business on the Boghall Road in Bray and enjoying a bit of golf with Arklow Golf club.

Johnny was born in Bray and played more rugby than soccer when he was young. He played rugby for his school, Presentation College, Bray and soccer for Enniskerry Rangers. Enniskerry played in the Dublin Schoolboy League and it was there that young Murphy was spotted by Arsenal’s Irish scout Bill Darby.

When Johnny was selected for the Irish Schoolboy team he invited the Gunners’ chief scout Gordon Clark to Dublin to watch the young Wicklow striker. Johnny was impressive in the 1-1 draw against France at Dalymount Park and Darby was then able to send four young boys to Highbury.

Frank Johnstone, who was the Irish correspondent for the Sunday People newspaper arranged for the historic photograph to be taken by the late Jim Connolly.

Johnny was homesick and didn’t get on with Scottish-born youth coach Ian Crawford. He said: ‘‘We had our differences and I was definitely homesick also. I was in digs with the Lewis family on Cockfosters Drive. They were very kind to me and Mr Lewis, who was a Spurs fan, switched to Arsenal when I lived with them. I re-visited the family for a documentary a few years back.’’

‘‘I joined Arsenal July 1973, but only lasted six months. I would have played with David O’Leary on the Irish Schoolboys team, but wouldn’t have known Liam or Frank before joining Arsenal.’’

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own