President of the Munster Branch IRFU
With an involvement in rugby that stretches to over 50 years, Corkman Ralph Murphy has assumed the prestigious role of President of the Munster Branch IRFU for the coming season, and brings with him a wealth of experience, having excelled in rugby administration over the last four decades.
Ralph s first taste of all things rugby began in 1948 when he joined Highfield Rugby Club as a boy, where he is still heavily involved. Coming from a strong sporting family where athletics and cycling were popular, Ralph went through the ranks at Highfield, playing in the front row from Youths to Senior level until his retirement from playing in 1966. During his playing career he won three Cups and three league trophies, including a league and Cup double in 1960/61. His retirement from the game marked the beginning of a new phase in his rugby career in the area of refereeing and administration. He was selector and Fixtures Secretary for the club for many years and was involved in organising the hugely popular weekly dances and annual functions in the club. He became President of Highfield Rugby Club in 1982-3 and is a Current Director and Life Member. With sporting interests that go beyond the game of rugby, Ralph was the Founder Member and Chairperson of Highfield Squash Club. Highfield must be congratulated for cultivating the talents of capable personnel over the years. While Ralph holds the Presidency of the Munster Branch this season, club mate Der Healy is set to take on the prestigious role of the Presidency of the IRFU in 2007/8.
It was in the area of administration that Ralph came into his own, with his talents employed in a long and illustrious career. He has been a member of the South Munster Sub Committee since 1967 and Honorary Secretary of this Committee from 1988-1991. He was a member of the Munster Branch Committee from 1974-1980, representing the Munster Association of Referees. In 1980 he became Assistant Honorary Secretary of the Branch which he held until 2004. During this time he acted as Honorary Team Secretary to the Munster Senior Team from 1980-1994 and again from 1997-2000. From 1988-2000 Ralph was Munster s representative on the All Ireland League Sub Committee which oversaw the formation of the League. This involved 18 months of intensive planning before the league eventually came into existence. During this time he also was appointed Disciplinary Officer in South Munster Rugby. In recent years, Ralph has climbed to the highest levels within the Branch, having been appointed Junior Vice President of the Munster Branch in June 2004, serving as Vice President last season before taking on the Presidency for the coming season.
With a passion for rugby that has endured for four decades, Ralph has seen huge changes in how rugby is played and organised within the province, with the movement from amateur to professionalism one of the major shifts. From a personal point of view, he has fond memories of serving as Team Secretary, which involved organising training sessions, matches and away trips, albeit at that time Munster were involved in only a handful of matches a year. Some of his highlights include Munster beating Australia in 1981 and again in 1992 when the visitors were World Champions. In 1984 Munster defeated a Middlesex team that had 13 internationals on the side and of course Munster beating Toulouse in Bordeaux in the Heineken Cup semi final in 2000. During his time as Team Secretary he had the pleasure of being involved with some of Munster s finest players- many of whom went onto represent Ireland and indeed the Lions. In recent years, Ralph is also incredibly proud of the successes of the Munster Junior team.
On the back of the Heineken Cup win, Ralph is adamant that the key target for the coming season is to retain the Heineken Cup. He believes the Cup is a fantastic marketing tool for rugby in the province: The Heineken Cup is a fantastic way of selling the sport. Getting it into schools and clubs has already begun, and we hope to see a knock on effect in terms of participation come September when the season recommences. He is also an advocate of how tag rugby has brought people to the sport saying rugby has never been so popular. This is where tag rugby scores. If people are playing tag rugby it is the first step. Tag does so much for Irish rugby and people won t realise it for a good number of years when players start moving from one to the other. Outside of the professional game, Ralph heart is never too far from the club game, and will be involved particularly on turning the focus back to Junior clubs, and strengthening domestic rugby in general. We have to be careful about ensuring that professionalism does not take over completely and not lose sight of the domestic game. We have pencilled in huge improvements we want to make which will benefit everyone through the ranks.
A native of Glasheen Road in Cork, and still resident in the area, Ralph is full of praise for the support given to him by his wife Celia and his family which includes a son, four daughters and eight grandchildren, all of whom share his passion for supporting Munster. From a personal point of view, Ralph will have a full schedule for the duration of the Presidency, which will include attending Munster s home and way matches, speaking at various functions, sitting on a number of Committees and meeting the players. However, he is not daunted by the prospect and is relishing the challenge ahead. I m particularly looking forward to meeting new people in the rugby world and beyond, and of course visiting other clubs during my term. I ve always enjoyed this aspect of the game and see this year as an opportunity to do this on another level, as an ambassador for Munster. It will also give me an opportunity to renew old acquaintances both here and abroad.