Brian Murray on the sideline as the final whistle is awaited in 1992
Donegal's All-Ireland winning midfielder Brian Murray handed in his baton on the first day of November after spending 36 years as a Garda, mostly in the one station, Kilmainham, in Dublin.
Murray will always be remembered for being part of Brian McEniff's All-Ireland winning team in 1992, and he was always destined to be a top player from a young age.
Size was a factor, Murray was a big lump of a caddy, and a central position was always lilkely to be his place on a football field. He was full-forward as a 16-year-old on the De La Salle All-Ireland winning team and would win four Donegal minor championships in-a-row from 1979-1982.
Murray captained Donegal minors to an Ulster Minor League in 1982 before graduating to the Donegal senior team in 1984 as a 20-year-old.
A year later on August 14 he joined An Garda Siochana, following in the footsteps of his father, Aidan, and there was a great link between Brian and another Aodh Ruadh player, Conor Boyle, who joined the guards on the same day as Brian.
"We had played on the Aodh Ruadh minor four in-a-row teams and our fathers would have been sergeants; my father a detective sergeant and Conor's father, Vincent, sergeant in charge in Ballyshannon.
"And we ended up in the same station, Kilmainham in Dublin for a couple of years. It's an amazing coincidence."
Conor was also on that Donegal minor team that won the Ulster Minor League and they were also together when Aodh Ruadh made the breakthrough winning the Donegal senior championship in 1986.
"Conor retired a few years ago. He ended up living in Meath and was a sergeant in Ashbourne."
GREAT TIMES AT UNDERAGE
Brian Murray says that growing up in Ballyshannon was all about football. "There was really nothing more. The GAA was massive for us at the time. At school and underage and then when you were 8-9, you started up in the park.
"Jackie McDermott would have been the man that would have had a big influence on us at that time in Aodh Ruadh at underage.
"And then PJ Buggy and Josie Boyle would have been huge with us, and John Travers would have been involved as well. And then when I went on to senior, you had PJ Buggy, Sean Slevin and Mickey McLoone.
"Probably the whole lot would have come from Jackie McDermott. I know anyway that Jackie was also manager of the Donegal U-21s when I was playing.
"There was one year when Jackie would have seven or eight Ballyshannon men on the panel. Then there was the Bear, big Brendan McDermott training us at the time.
"When I went to De La Salle, Tom Cullen was the main man. I had such time for Tom Cullen. John Travers was involved and Gerry Breslin and Michael McGowan. All those people would have had influence on us at that time.
"We were very, very successful at the time. We had a huge panel of players. We had players from Ballintra and Rossnowlagh, the Williamsons and Matt and Pauric, God rest him and Declan (Gallagher).
"A lot of them boys (De La Salle) were there when we won the senior championship in 1986 and '87."
Murray won county medals at U-12 (1974, 1976), U-16 (1978, 1979), U-18 (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982), U-21 (1981, 1982) and senior (1986, 1987). He also won Herald Cup and McLarnon Cup medals with De La Salle as well as the All-Ireland Colleges title in 1980.
"I would have been involved at U-12, Feiles, U-16, minor. I won four minor championships ina-row. Conor Boyle was on that team as well. We probably were subs for the first year and we were playing thereafter," says Murray, who remembers that PJ Ferguson was manager one of the years at U-21 level while Ray Sheerin was a manager of one of the minor teams.
"With Donegal I captained Donegal minors to win an Ulster minor league. We weren't very successful at U-21 level. I then started playing with Donegal seniors. I think the first tgame was in the park, a McKenna Cup game against Armagh in 1984."
Murray's senior championship debut, also in 1984, came on a proud day for the Aodh Ruadh club when four players made their debuts. It was the day that manager Brian McEniff picked up Gerry Curran in Ballyshannon to provide cover as Martin McHugh was out injured. Curran would be introduced as a sub with the other debutants being Murray, Sylvester Maguire and Gary Walsh, who came in to replace the injured Noel McCole. As well as those four, Tommy McDermott was also a starting half-back.
Murray would have known the talent of Gerry Curran, growing up beside him in Cluain Barron.
"He was different. The football that that man had, the sky was the limit. We all knew that growing up, he was unbelievable. We had Big George (Gary Walsh) just a few doors up," says Murray.
When I reminded him that Sylvester Maguire was the other player to make his debut on the day, Murray said: "How could I forget Sylvester. Imagine if that boy drank, how mad he would have been. A great character. Yeah, he always said 'Never hurry a Murray. A great clubman. You don't get too many like him."
There was a break in the Murray link to Aodh Ruadh in 1988 when he joined the Civil Service club because he felt travelling for club and county was just two much.
There was also a break from intercounty for a season when Tom Conaghan took over. But there were good days to come.
"When I started off with Donegal, things weren't too good. The U-21s won in 1982 and 1987. Once them boys started maturing and started getting experience, then it all changed.
"Tom Conaghan took over after 1986 and he didn't have any outsiders. Everybody was from inside. Myself and Gary (Walsh) were left off the panel. Gary was in Burren in Down and I was in Dublin.
"But we were back and in 1989 we got to the final and were beaten by Tyrone in a replay. We should have beat them the first day.
"We would have played five Ulster finals in-a-row and only won two of them. In '89 we weren't too far away, but we were well beaten the second day.
"1991 was against a very good Down team. I remember there was a mistake with somebody colliding with each other and Down got in for a goal.
"1993 against Derry, we all say it was a game that should never have been played. And it wasn't because it was Derry. We were missing a few guys from the year before. There were a few ifs and buts, we could have won it and who knows what would have happened then.
"We were very seasoned when we won it in '92 and then you had boys that were 30 and 31. A lot of them boys would be retired in the present day," said Murray, who feels that dealing with the success of 1992 was an issue.
"When you win an All-Ireland, there's a lot of stuff there that happens that if you won a couple of them, you wouldn't be doing.
"I remember the league afterwards, remember, bar myself he (McEniff) might have played everybody. In every game there was at least 12 of the All-Ireland team playing in them games. Which was ridiculous like, you know.
"They should have fired fellas in there, subs, up to Christmas anyway. We weren't playing world beaters. Even the night before, the lads were having a couple of beers and going out the next day. They might have been slow starters, but they were hammering the teams.
"But really what should have been done, maybe was play a couple of the guys if they wanted to play, but rest the older fellas until Christmas. And then let them come back. But look, they wanted to play and that was it."
Jack Sheedy and Brian Murray pictured before All-Ireland final in 92
As for the All-Ireland final, it will always have great memories for Murray. There was the famous collision with his Garda colleague, Jack Sheedy, during the game.
"There's a lot of misinterpretation about myself and Jack. Me and Jack are very good friends. Jack only retired a couple of weeks ago, would you believe.
"We would have played together within the job and against each other at club level, he was playing with Lucan.
"When you are playing the biggest game of your life and your focus is only one thing. To this day I use it, I keep talking about the same man again, Jackie McDermott, 'it's all about the wee white thing'. I will never, ever forget that quote.
"You're thinking before the game about what you're going to do whatever. It's all about getting that ball and delivering it. There was one wee incident that happened during the game when Jack had the ball and I went over. I hit him with a shoulder and put him on his ass and there was a big roar.
"If I had the ball and he was looking for it, he would have done the same.
"There was no animosity or anything between the two of us. He is a great guy and he is still a great friend of mine.
"But the whole thing was unbelievable at that time. When you look back, going into the semi-final against Mayo. We were all a bag of nerves, and that's the God's honest truth. I remember in Finnstown House in Lucan, it's no longer there," said Murray.
"We went out the next day and if we had put over half of the chances, we would have won the game by 10 or 12 points. But then again Dublin would have sat up and say, look this team is not that bad either.
"But the fact that we did not play well and we struggled through, it was a factor. Then the final came and we worked very, very hard. But didn't I get injured; I got a hamstring in one leg and an Achilles in the other. The hamstring you can work out but the Achilles was the one. I had to even get an injection on the morning of the final.
"Even in the week before, I felt I wouldn't make it. But it came round and I got picked and I was delighted.
"We arrived up in Dublin for the final, again in Finnstown House. We played golf, pool and I slaughtered them at the cards. It was just a relaxed team. It was unbelievable. The boys said this is it, you're going no further, you're in a final, one hour and it's the biggest game of your life. You give your best and and who knows what happens.
"It took us 10-15 minutes to get going, after they missed the penalty, we stood up. When you think about it, after that we really controlled the game," said Murray.
But then in the second half disaster struck for Murray as he had to be helped off with another injury.
"It broke me heart just to come off. I marked Paul Clarke and I was so lucky. There was competition (for the spot) between myself and Barry Cunningham. And I'd say Seamus Bonar, God rest him, was a big influence for me. When he was finishing up, I was starting. I joined Civil Service and he was a part of my life growing up in football and friendship.
"Seamus would have swayed it for me. I would have played against Paul Clarke at club level, he was playing with Whitehall Colmcilles. Paul was playing well, but I knew how to mark him. Paul was fit but if you stayed with him and went for everything with him and stayed on his toes, you could upset him," said Murray.
And the injury.
"Wasn't I going through in the second half and I think it was Joyce (McMullin) I was giving for a one-two and when I went for a step for the pass, the calf muscle went. I had the Achilles, the hamstring and now the bloody calf went on me.
"Unfortunately, I knew it was gone. I went back into the dugout and cried my eyes out. I done my bit," says Murray, who was full of praise for the part played by his replacement Barry Cunningham.
"When you look at that after, he knew he had about 20 minutes and he ran and ran and ran and they couldn't keep up with him. He was absolutely fantastic when he came on. It was like a new lease of life.
"He was a very good footballer," said Murray, who felt that he got the start because of playing club football in Dublin against Clarke and because of Seamus Bonar being an influence on McEniff.
Murray was at midfield for the two Ulster wins alongside captain Anthony Molloy. In the other three Ulster finals the pairings were different with Michael Gallagher partnering Molloy in '89 and Murray in '91 and '93.
"You know what Molloy brings to the table. Molloy would go through a brick wall. The real hard, tough boys in the middle of the field, Molloy would be marking them and it would be a great battle.
"Molloy was a good footballer as well, with a great brain. It was a privilege to play with him. I had probably a different game to Anthony. For those few years it was brilliant. It was a pity that he got hurt, and Gavigan (in 1993).
"When you think about it the following year, Tony Boyle was missing as well. I always said that in 1993 against Derry, if we could have had one player, it would have been Tony Boyle because he was an unbelievable young player, such a great man to win possession. He would have been a huge, huge asset that day," says Murray.
"For a while, I was thinking about it and then the Covid came and I said there was no point because you couldn't go nowhere. But at the end of July this year I made up mind. I went into the office one day and said, that's it, I'm going to pack it in.
"I have been working out my leave since then so I was sort of semi-retired before finishing up completely on November 1st."
The new life will give Murray the opportunity to make more trips home to Ballyshannon were parents Aidan and Jean live. He also plans to play more golf in Bundoran with brother Val and nephews Niall and Aidan.
"Now that I'm off I will be going to Ballyshannon quite a bit now visiting, more than when I was working, " he says, but other than that he has made no plans.
His 36 years as a garda began at Harcourt Tce in Dublin for a year and apart from another short period in Blanchardstown, most of his 36 years has been out of Kilmainham Garda Station.
"There were some tough times and there were a lot of investigations. Life and the job has changed, but it's been good to me."
The Murray link to An Garda Siochana is pretty strong. Brian's wife Della is a serving Superintendent and he says "has a few things to do yet before she goes".
Their daughter, Lorna, is a Primary School Teacher in Kilcock while son Ciaran has already made a name for himself as a Garda. He is four years in the job and is stationed in Ballyfermot.
Last year Ciaran made national headlines when he rescued a woman and her dog from the River Camac in Clondalkin, Dublin. Brian takes up the story.
"The lady was out walking her dog and it was a stormy evening. She was lucky that there was a man and his wife out walking also and they noticed her missing. She had fallen into the river and they could hear her.
"Ciaran and a few others weren't too far away. He threw off his utility belt and jumped in. He handed the dog to a colleague and then grabbed the woman and got her out. She was very, very lucky that the man had seen her," says Murray.
Ciaran was better equipped than most to make the rescue as he stands at 6'8''. "He got great exposure from the story," says Murray snr.
Brian Murray will always be remembered, like all of the '92 brigade, as being a member of the first Donegal All-Ireland winning team. 'Bringus', as he was known in Ballyshannon, played 131 times for Donegal, his last game being against Antrim in 1998.
We wish him all the best in retirement.
The Murray gang Lorna, Della and Ciaran with Brian
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