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Down mourning the loss of their 1960s All-Ireland hero Leo Murphy

By John Campbell

The passing of Leo Murphy in his late 70s sees the severing of another link with the great Down team of the 1960s that blazed an unprecedented trail of success in Gaelic football.

The Kilkeel native, a former principal of Killowen PS, lived in Rostrevor for many years but had been in ill health lately.

It was in 1960 and 1961 that Murphy won two All-Ireland medals with a Down side that broke new ground by winning Sam Maguire, the first side from Northern Ireland to do so.

A tall, commanding full-back, Murphy was noted for his aerial ability and his lengthy kick-outs, attributes that earned him a reputation as one of the best defenders in the history of the sport.

He was regarded as a colossus, a player who dominated the area in front of goal with great authority and composure.

It was with St Colman's College Newry and subsequently St Mary's University College Belfast that Murphy cut his teeth in the sport that was to become his passion.

Murphy played in 10 Ulster finals for Down with six victories but it was his exploits on the All-Ireland stage that saw him gain legendary status.

Paddy Doherty, the iconic forward who skippered the 1961 side and won three All-Ireland medals, recalls the huge contribution his former colleague made to the county's dominance.

"Leo was a massive presence in the Down side, a man who took no prisoners but who was a clean player just the same," said Doherty.

Following his retirement from teaching, he spent a great deal of time nurturing his beloved walled garden in his home overlooking Carlingford Lough while continuing to take an interest in Down's fortunes.

He played his part in leaving a rich legacy within Down football, his pride in his county always palpable. Deepest sympathy to his wife Sodilva, his son Leon, daughters Ciara and Tara and grandson Conor.

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