Mick Murphy – The Iron Man

Posted: December 22, 2009 · By: Donnacha Clifford · Comments: 7
Under: Featured, Irish Cycling, Kerry Cycling, News

Breaking a collarbone, escaping body-snatchers, stealing a bike, drinking cow’s blood. Mick Murphy’s story is an extraordinary one which details how after taking up racing only in 1957, he won Ireland’s premier cycle race the following year

On May 25th 2007, a barrel-chested old man got out of a car on the side of a hill called the Maum, between Castleisland and Listowel, Co. Kerry. The old man walked with difficulty on two home-made sticks. He was early. Within an hour crowds awaiting that day’s stage of the FBD Insurance Rás had begun to arrive. Soon the man began to attract attention as people moved toward him to shake his hand. The man was Mick Murphy, also known as “The Iron Man”.

His win in the 1958 Rás is one of the epics of Irish sport. People talked about him on the Maum that day. They said he trained with weights made from stone, that he made a living as a circus performer, that on one stage during that Rás – when the freewheel on his bike had broken – he stole an ordinary bicycle from a farmer and chased down the leading pack. They said that he rode for four days with a broken collarbone, that he would cycle for 40 miles having completed a gruelling stage just to cool down, that he drank cow’s blood and ate raw meat. He was indestructible.

Mick Murphy was born outside Cahirciveen in 1933. At the age of seven he began to dream of the road, of escape as a circus performer. He was already training under the guidance of a neighbour, training that included balancing a ladder on his chin.

The way Mick Murphy cycled became a philosophy of life. He had no predictable rhythm. He led from the front. “The dogs in the street knew my style . . . the more they waited for me to shatter, the stronger I got.” Told to wash so he’d look the part before a race, he tore a bit of a shirt he’d trained in and tied the rag around his neck. You could smell it a 100 yards away. It was like the reek of stale sweat at the start of a fight, or the adrenalin-charged smell of a gym: “Without those things you wouldn’t be there. Something must hype you up.”

Mick was “a convict of the road” – an arcane term, born out of the early days of the Tour de France. The time when cyclists lived on their wits, stole from the fields and slept rough. Men like Maurice Garin, “the White Bulldog”, winner of the first Tour, who was sold as a child by his father to a chimney-sweep for a bucket of cheese.

Click here for the source of this article and for a link to an audio documentary on Mick Murphy from RTÉ.

Mick Murphy – The Iron Man: 7 Comments
  • mary doherty
    11 years ago

    could you tell me is this man still alive

  • The Kerry Cyclist
    11 years ago

    He is. Hale and hearty. I saw him a couple of weeks ago at the press launch for the Castleisland Stage Finish of the Rás. He was in great form and still not afraid to talk!

  • Michael Molamphy
    10 years ago

    Have heard there is a play about the life of Mick Murphy – would love to make contact with the writer/performer if anyone has any contact info. Many thanks.

  • The Kerry Cyclist
    10 years ago

    Hi Michael, I heard of an unsuccessfult attempt to write a book alright but I have not heard of a play. Keep me posted if you do.

  • Annette
    10 years ago

    Hi, there is a play about Mick written by John Bela Reilly & Roddy McDevitt it’s called “Attack in the Morning!” It’s fantastic and if you’d like to have it staged in your area I can give you contact details no prob

  • The Kerry Cyclist
    10 years ago

    Thanks Annette, great to hear, where was that staged previously? I would love to try and get it to come to Kerry. Please send me on contact details if you can.



  • Stuart Watson
    6 years ago

    A true legend they dont make them like that anymore god bless you mick

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