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'Biff'! 'Bosh'! 'Boom!' - Fab Vinnie left mark on those who saw him play

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Despite his physique and talent, Murphy couldn’t turn Páidí Ó Sé’s head and after impressing
for Kerins O’Rahillys and representing the Kingdom in hurling, he returned to Dublin for his second act. Pic: David Conachy

Despite his physique and talent, Murphy couldn’t turn Páidí Ó Sé’s head and after impressing for Kerins O’Rahillys and representing the Kingdom in hurling, he returned to Dublin for his second act. Pic: David Conachy

Despite his physique and talent, Murphy couldn’t turn Páidí Ó Sé’s head and after impressing for Kerins O’Rahillys and representing the Kingdom in hurling, he returned to Dublin for his second act. Pic: David Conachy

The car-park in Meagher's pub in Ballybough may not sound like the most glamorous place, but when I was growing up it was a vivid sea of blue dreams on summer Sundays.

After Dublin matches, the place was transformed into a makeshift beer garden. There were no chairs, you had to go inside for a drink and some poor unfortunate, usually supporting the opposition, would always leave their car there for the day and try and reverse their way out through the assorted bodies with great comedic effect.

The beauty of Meagher's, however, was that after a big game many members of the Dublin team would come in for a pint and mingle among the crowd.

Opportunity knocked. Armed with a permanent marker and a rock shandy, I'd embark on a tour of the pub looking for the players in their team-only polo shirts for signatures to adorn my Arnotts jersey.

By the 1994 final, I'd secured most of the scrawls and that shirt was my pride and joy.

Still not every player came into the Meagher's madness and so, when my dad procured tickets for the post-match banquet in a southside hotel, I sensed the chance to complete the set. The match didn't go as hoped. Down were too strong. Charlie Redmond missed a penalty and another chance slipped past a team that seemed destined to be nearly men.

Disappointment didn't deter this Dub and, having wiped away the tears, I lingered in the lobby and waited for my prey. When the unmistakable figure of Vinnie Murphy sauntered in, I pounced.

I wanted an autograph to adorn my shirt, but the great man had other ideas. He pulled off the top of my marker and drew a moustache on my face, added some sideburns and a few frown lines across my brow before heading off for his dinner.

I can't remember if he even wrote his name on the jersey and I can't check because it got lost along the way. After some serious effort and no little protestation, my mother washed the marker off my face but the memory remains.

No doubt the child walking around the banquet with marker all over his face generated a few strange glances but it was a price worth paying for being touched by greatness.

The concept of a cult hero is a strange one and being honest, I'm not sure it strictly applies to Murphy's career; particularly not at the start.

An All-Star in 1992, an All-Ireland winner off the bench a year after our encounter when the Dubs finally got over the line, the Trinity Gaels man won five Leinster titles across a career that was interrupted by a move to Kerry for work.

Despite his physique and talent, Murphy couldn't turn Páidí Ó Sé's head and after impressing for Kerins O'Rahillys and representing the Kingdom in hurling, he returned to Dublin for his second act.

It would be easy to describe his 2001 season as something of a novelty act, but that would denigrate his role on Tom Carr's team.

Murphy took the phrase impact sub and made it his own.

He's the only GAA replacement who ever merited his own entrance music. It helped that the Leinster Championship was still alive and kicking in those days and the simple presence of Murphy on the sideline would send a bolt of electricity through Hill 16.

Entrance

On he'd come like a bull in a china shop, searching for an opposition player he could career into and knock out of his way. His entrance could have been accompanied by the old Batman cartoon speech bubbles. 'Biff!' 'Bosh!' 'Boom!'

The impact didn't end there. He still had the capacity to turn matches Dublin's way, no more than the famous trip to Tipp when Dublin and Kerry played out two unforgettable quarter-final encounters.

The first one is rightly remembered for Maurice Fitzgerald's supreme score, but for the hordes who sat in traffic for hours on the road from Dublin it goes down as another lost opportunity in those disappointing days between '95 and 2011.

By the time he got to Thurles, Murphy's entrance was expected and when he came in he was met by green and gold shoulder after green and gold shoulder.

It didn't bother him. He caused havoc on the edge of the square, scoring a goal, before Darren Homan fisted in another. Until Fitzgerald's moment of greatness, it was going to be his day.

In recent days, Murphy lamented his luck on social media as he contemplated missing out on the 1995 team's jubilee outing at HQ. "If Carlsberg did bad luck. 1. lost the 2 finals I started. 2. Win all star and no trip that year never offer replacement either 3. No touch when on in 95. 4 Retire the year before Dubs win Leins after 7 years. 5 won't get the 25th anniversary walk on either," he wrote. He might not get another chance to wave at the Hill, but he should know he left an indelible mark on those who saw him play.