Mike “Iron Man” Murphy, proof that being a true champion is marching to the beat of your own drum. He spent his final years in a his simple home just outside Cahersiveen back amongst his neighbours. He was also one of the greatest Sportsmen Ireland has ever known.
Mike Murphy, born in 1934 in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, overcame a life of poverty and hardship. He left school at 11 and worked various jobs, including as a farm labourer and quarryman. In his late teens, he became a migrant worker in County Cork. Despite his challenging upbringing, Murphy developed a passion for athletics and excelled as a runner, winning prize money at sports events throughout the county.
In 1958, Murphy made a remarkable impact on the cycling world by winning the Rás Tailteann, a prestigious race in Ireland. Representing Kerry, Murphy and his teammates dominated the race, securing six of the eight stage wins and clinching the team award. Murphy at one stage crashed off his bike, His teammate handed over his bike to the Cahersiveen man for him to remain in the Race. With Murphy now strapped to his bike with a broken collarbone, it was all about keeping things steady on the road. Murphy wheeled into Dublin in one piece and took the biggest title in Irish cycling, where from then on, he became known as ‘Iron Man Mike. Murphy completed the challenging 1,000-mile course in just under 41 hours, finishing with a commanding lead of 4 minutes and 44 seconds. His victory was a testament to his aggressive and relentless and shear will style of cycling.
Murphy’s prep for the race was typical if unusual. First there was his unique diet. High in protein, it largely centred on eggs, meat, cereals, vegetables and goats’ milk, most of which he consumed raw. He also drank the blood of cows, something he claimed to have copied from Masai warriors in east Africa who’d apparently practised the custom for thousands of years. He carried a filed-down penknife with him which he’d use to nick open a cow’s vein, before tapping its blood into his bottle and pinching the wound shut again. He carried out these ‘transfusions’, as he called them, at least three times during the 1958 Rás.
Although Murphy’s cycling career lasted less than four years, he left an indelible mark on Irish cycling history. In subsequent years, he continued to participate in the Rás Tailteann, winning two stages in 1959 and securing third place overall in 1960. However, he eventually emigrated to England for work.
Beyond his cycling prowess, Murphy led a colourful life, engaging in various sports and activities such as running, boxing, wrestling, juggling, dart playing, and even ventriloquism. He passed away in 2015 and was buried near his home in Surgrena, close to Cahersiveen. In honour of his legacy, the local Iveragh community organizes the Annual Mike Murphy Memorial Cycle, a fundraising event dedicated to erecting a memorial for the legendary “Iron-Man” Murphy. He remains an underrated sports star from the Kingdom of Kerry.
The local Iveragh community each year organise the Annual Mike Murphy Memorial Cycle, an event to raise funds solely to erect a Memorial to the late legendary Mike ‘Iron-Man’ Murphy. A fitting tribute to one of the Kingdom’s most underrated sports stars.