Variety is certainly the spice of sporting life for former Armagh gaelic footballer Niamh Murphy, who won her 1km category at the Irish Provinces Indoor Rowing Championships in Limerick last weekend.
The 34-year-old Mullaghbawn woman has shown impressive prowess in what is a relatively recent addition to her diverse sporting portfolio, winning the Irish 1km title and setting national records in five categories including 5km, 6km, 10km, four minutes and 30 minutes.
It has been a busy autumn on the sporting front for Murphy, who made her presence felt as Mullaghbawn won the Intermediate Shield and managed the club’s Minors to the Armagh B Championship semi-finals where they unluckily lost to Dromintee after extra-time.
She also turned her hand to punditry as co-commentator for this season’s Buttercrane Championship finals in the Athletic Grounds followed by the replay at Crossmaglen alongside Armagh TV’s Damian McCullough and county skipper Kelly Mallon.
Five days after Clann Eireann’s victory over Carrickcruppen, Murphy was part of an historic occasion in netball when she took the court for newly-promoted Crumlin in the club’s first ever match in the NI Premier League, a respectable loss to champions Belfast Ladies.
Since then, the top flight newcomers have recorded their first couple of wins, with Murphy showing her versatility by alternating between mid-court roles and the shooting circle, and their defeat to Caroline O’Hanlon’s formidable Larkfield was encouragingly close.
By not returning to the Armagh panel in the autumn of 2020 after the first coronavirus shutdown, Murphy effectively called time on an Orchard career which began relatively late due to the towering blonde being based across the water for a prolonged period.
Murphy captained the London gaelic football county team during six years spent living and working in England and also led Parnells when the British champions came to Camlough to play Shane O’Neills in the 2016 All Ireland Intermediate Club semi-final.
Upon returning home, Niamh was soon brought into the Armagh panel and played both football and camogie for Mullaghbawn while working in teaching jobs in Bangor and Belfast, but there was great personal sadness with the loss of her beloved mum Anne to cancer.
Originally Anne McCone, she was an outstanding sportswoman in her time, who graced Croke Park on a number of occasions in camogie and was delighted when Niamh lifted silverware in the famous stadium with Parnells during her time in exile.
The huge turnout for Mrs Murphy’s funeral in February 2019 showed how highly she was esteemed in the local community and beyond, and now Niamh is proudly following in her mum’s professional footsteps as a teacher in St Mary’s PS in Mullaghbawn.
Miss Murphy was thrilled when her girls from St Mary’s Mullaghbawn were crowned county champions in April of this year, beating big city schools Armagh CBS and St Patrick’s PS Armagh respectively in the semi-final and final at the Athletic Grounds.
Niamh had got former county team-mate, multiple All Star Aimee Mackin to do a video message of support for the Mullaghbawn girls in advance and has also used her contacts to bring Republic of Ireland soccer legend Niamh Fahey into school for an inspiring visit.
Netball is also thriving in St Mary’s under Murphy, a close friend of NI head coach Elaine Rice, and other celebrity buddies include Ireland rugby great Jenny Murphy and RTE big name Marty Morrissey who has joined in the online banter about her Armagh TV role!
Although by her own admission she has big boots to fill, Niamh is keeping her mum’s wonderful legacy very much alive by imparting a love of sport to her pupils, and she also finds time to help out with friend Sarah Cairns’ great GAA For All initiative in Crossmaglen.
Captain for Mullaghbawn’s Intermediate Championship showpiece losses to Granemore and Killeavy in 2019 and 2021 respectively at least Murphy had the consolation of picking up a one-off Buttercrane All Star the first of those seasons.
Being beaten at home by third division Cullyhanna in this year’s Intermediate Championship quarter-final was disappointing but the Shield triumph was a nice consolation for Niamh, who savoured winning some silverware alongside sister Caitriona, the Mullaghbawn goalkeeper.
In spite of being busy, she has also stepped forward to serve on the Armagh LGFA Development Committee as part of an influx of former county footballers including clubmate Caroline O’Hare, Mairead Tennyson and Aveen Bellew.