1958 Mick Murphy Kerry Winner Of Rás Tailteann
Feb 24, 2007, 17:58

Rás Tailteann


The Route 


Stage 1:  Dublin To Wexford  100 Miles.

Bray, Rathnew, Arklow, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Wexford


Stage 2: Wexford To Kilkenny 120 Miles.

Wexford, New Ross, Waterford, Dungarvan, Carrick-On-Suir, Callan,



Stage 3: Kilkenny To Clonakilty 120 Miles.

Kilkenny, Clonmel, Ardfinnan, Clogheen, Ballyporeen, Mitchelstown,

Fermoy, Cork, Bandon, Clonakilty.


Stage 4: Clonakilty To Tralee 115 Miles.

Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Drimoleague, Bantry, Glengarriff, Kenmare,

Killarney, Tralee.


Stage 5: Tralee To Nenagh 100 Miles.

Tralee, Castleisland, Abbeyfeale, Newcastle West, Drumcolliher,

Rathluirc, Croom, Limerick, Nenegh.


Stage 6: Nenagh To Castlebar 120 Miles.

Nenagh, Borrisokane, Birr, Cloghan, Ferbane, Ballinahown, Athlone,

Ballyforan, Mountbellew, Moylough, Tuam, Kilmaine, Ballinrobe, Castlebar.


Stage 7: Castlebar To Sligo 100 Miles.

Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis, Castlerea, Frenchpark, Boyle, Collooney, Sligo.


Stage 8: Sligo To Dublin 140 Miles.

Sligo, Boyle, Carrick-On-Shannon, Longford, Mullingar, Kinegad,

Kilcock, Maynooth, Lucan, Dublin.



Race Director:   Steven Abbott


Steve Abbott Race Director



Gene Mangan The Only Man To Win Four Stages Back To Back



Stage Winners :


Cathal O'Reilly Dublin Winner Of Stage 3



Stage 1:  Dublin to Wexford 90 Miles.    D. Ahern (Kerry)  4-01-00


Stage 2:  Wexford To Kilkenny 117 miles.   M. Murphy (Kerry) 6-02-50


Stage 3:  Kilkenny To Clonakilty 125 Miles.  C. O'Reilly (Dublin) 5-32-25


Stage 4:  Clonakilty To Tralee 106 Miles.    S. Devlin (Tyrone)  4-51-30


Stage 5:  Tralee To Nenagh 111 Miles.   G. Mangan (Kerry)  4-39-05


Stage 6:  Nenagh To Castlebar 139 Miles.  G. Mangan ( Kerry)  5-47-00


Stage 7:  Castlebar To Sligo 100 Miles.   G. Mangan (Kerry)  3-37-10


Stage 8:  Sligo To Dublin 133 Miles.   G. Mangan (Kerry)  6-12-15



S. Devlin Tyrone Winner Of Stage 4

Finish of stage six in Castlebar Eamon Ryan Kildare 2nd. Cathal O'Reilly Dublin 3rd. Gene Mangan Kerry 1st.

Dick Barry ,Cork

Cathal O'Reilly Dublin winning stage 3 from Kilkenny To Clonakilty



General Classification.







M. Murphy, Kerry,  

B. McKenna, Meath      

C. O'Reilly, Dublin 

T. Kiely, Tipperary 

T. Ryan, Tipperary        

40- 47-35





Winning Team



Jack Courtney and Willie Heasly Meath


Cow's blood and raw meat kept the incredible Mick Murphy at the top.

ON a Wednesday afternoon in August 1958, I stood amongst the massive crowd of spectators lining the streets of Killarney awaiting with great expectations the arrival of The Ras Tailteann, Ireland's great eight-day cycle race. The crowds had been building up from early that day, and the feeling of excitement and expectation was something that has remained etched in the memory.


Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, came a surging, speeding, flashing kaleidoscope of colour as the main bunch or riders raced past us, up High Street and, as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone.


However the crowd was restless. There was something wrong. The race leader s yellow jersey was not in the main bunch, but minutes later there was a huge roar as a lone rider, sporting the coveted yellow jersey, came tearing around the corner of Main Street. Here was the man we had all come to see, Mick Murphy from Caherciveen.


The whole country was talking about Mile A Minute Murphy and the headlines at the time read: The Iron Man, The Iron Hard Light Weight From Kerry, Mick Murphy the Ras Tailteann Sensation, Murphy Tears The Form Book To Shreds.


He had taken over the race leader s jersey from his team mate Mick Ahern on the second day and he would go on to retain it and stun the sporting world, coming from nowhere to win this most gruelling of races. His ride to victory has been described by Tom Daly in his superb book on The Ras as one of the truly epic feats of Irish sporting history .


43 years later, on a raw December day, I sat opposite this Kerry legend, in The Daniel O Con-nell Hotel in Caherciveen. This was the man I had been told would not talk to me as he always kept to himself and had been almost forgotten until Tom Daly re-discovered him for his publication on the story of Ireland s unique bike race.


Mick had sent word to me with the renowned photographer Don MacMonagle that he would like to tell his story to Terrace Talk as he is an avid listener of the show.


Needless to say, I was greatly flattered. Caherciveen friends Kieran McCarthy and Eileen Driscoll arranged our meeting and there in that hotel I was to listen to one of the most amazing sporting and life stories, bordering on the unbelievable, that you are ever likely to hear.


The Mick Murphy that sat in front of me was a far cry from the man whom I had been told about. Here was a wonderful, warm person with laughing mischievous eyes, small, sturdy and barrel-chested.

Despite what I had been told Mick would talk for Ireland, and I was to spend the most captivating four hours of my life in his company as he recalled for me his extraordinary life and times. This is his story, told for the first time for radio, and, yes, it is all true. And remember, the truth should never spoil a good story.

The Tyrone 1958 Rás Team Left to right Paddy Campbell Dungannon, Seamus Devlin Coalisland,Stage winner 1958, Joe McIvor Dungannon, Stage winner 1954 Tommy Drumm Dungannon and Ned Devlin Coalisland trainer.

Mick Murphy was born in the town land of Sugrena, a few miles from Caherciveen. His earliest memories were of great hardship as his father and mother struggled to survive in their small hill farm that supported a few cows.

He had little or no schooling and his mother, whom he remembers with great affection, taught him how to read and write.

Life was terribly hard, he was working on the farm at seven years of age, on what he described as the mean and bad land of our region . He also earned a few pounds for the family drawing turf from the bogs with a donkey and creel during the war years.

My mother was a great women, he reflected. She would sew our clothes, knit our jumpers and there was always food on the table. But times were very hard, because one winter all we were eating was bread and gravy and another winter we had no sheets.

But mother made sheets out of potato sacks. She was a great cook. There was me and my brother, he died when he was just 15. He ran away from home and joined the Cistercians. He got sick, cycled back home and died later, Mick recalled.

The visiting circus was to play a huge part in the developing life of the young Murphy. A neighbour, Joe Bourke, introduced him to the touring circuses and Mick learned to juggle, how to walk on his hands, fire eating and how to balance ladders and wheels on his chin, often with a monkey perched on top.

I learned a various heap of tricks, he said. The circus people were very good to him and indeed it was from here that he learned the benefits of weight training, something that was to stay with him all during his life. They also supplied him with books on training and created an awareness of eating the right foods.

One of the books contained the training methods of Dr Roger Bannister, the first man to run the mile in under four minutes, and from this Mick devised his own gym and training routine.

I started training behind the house, from Cumar to Cumar. It s a big ravine or stream in the land. I would run, back and forth, back and forth, non-stop, and that was the cornerstone of my victory in the Ras.

You could take me to the line for a sprint and I couldn t even attempt it, but give me 400 yards, or a half mile or a mile, and I surged, and when I went they couldn t hold me. I was gone. I was like a trotting horse, ready to bolt.

All my savage training gave me almighty strength. I had fierce strength. I would jump to the front of the pack, turn on the power and wear down the other fellow no matter how good he was.

I got addresses from the circus and wrote away to Russia and learned more, especially about my diet, raw meat, eggs, vegetables, cheese, and I drank cow s blood three or four times a week. I d take about a whiskey glass full.

Then I didn t want to blackguard the cows, so Id get two cows. It was simply done. I had read books and manuals and studied how the Africans of a thousand years ago used to do it. The African warriors would file down something to razor edge, just put it into a vein, in the legs, in the neck, or the thigh. You would get a lot of veins, especially in the legs.

The African warriors would have little bowls of clay, I would have a cup or a water bottle or something, and to stop the bleeding you just squeeze the skin together. There was no problem.

When I began cycling the first years I looked worn out, thin and drawn and the blood would give you a sheen and a different look. When I look at the Tour de France riders, I look at their faces and know they re on good stuff. I used to look at my self in the mirror, that was my barometer. I never drank the blood once I stopped cycling.

I eat raw meat because it s the blood in the steak that does you good. There were a lot of people dying of TB at that time and the raw meat helped prevent it. I bought mail-order remedies for ailments and injuries.

When I was young I fought a heavyweight boxer in a bout in Cork or Clonmel and got badly injured. In the morning my pillow was wet with blood. My mother told me I was worse to her than the death of her son. I wrote away for a cure and it saved my life .

Next week I ll outline the second instalment of the amazing Mick Murphy story, how Mick qualified for the Kerry team, his falls, concussion, a fractured collarbone and how spectators gasped when they saw his shoulder heavily strapped.

He will also tell about the stealing of a farmer s bike to stay in the lead, jumping out through the window of Tralee hospital, living in the Cork woods, stealing a Kilgarvan goat, enjoying a drink of blood after a stage finish, riding to victory and a hero s welcome.

Cormac MacLynn Antrim leadson stage three to Clonakilty

Mick Murphy Cycling Hero

Mike Murphy’s victory in the 1958 Ras Tailtean has the whiff of a movie script about it. He was a poor labourer who dreamt of winning Ireland’s toughest cycling race . In keeping with the best traditions of Hollywood the 26-year-old underdog, after completing an epic journey, crossed the finish line in Dublin as champion.

The myth that has grown up around Murphy and his exploits is captured in the following quote from documentary maker Liam O’Brien.

In the case of the Kerry cyclist Mike Murphy, ‘The Iron Man’, the truth exceeds the legend and the legend… Well the legend goes a bit like this: he trained with weights made from stones, he made a living as a circus performer, on one stage in the 1958 Ras, after his bike had broken down, he stole an ordinary bicycle from a farmer and chase down the leading pack. It’s said that he rode for three days with a broken collarbone, that he would cycle for forty miles having completed a grueling stage just to cool down, that he drank cow’s blood and ate raw meat .it said he was indestructible.

O’Brien’s documentary, convict on the road, is the story of Mike Murphy as told in his own words. It can be listened to by clicking on the following link to the RTE website.  

Members of the Antrim Team Cormac MacLynn,Tommy Ward,Dan McGurk,Gerry Meehan, Jim McGarry, Frank McDonald

        List Of Competitors Rás Tailteann 3 -10 August 1958


1.       Phil Clarke  



2.          Jim McGarry

3.       D. McGuirk

4.          G.Meehan

5.          P. Cormac

6.          C. McLynn

7.          G. McKeever

8.          T. Ward

9.          F McDonnell



10.      J.McIvor

11.      Seamus Devlin

12.      Paddy Campbell

13.      Tommy Drumm



14.      Gene Mangan

15.      Paddy Callaghan

16.      Joe Boyle

17.      Dan Ahern

18.      Patsie Cremins

19.      Eddie Lacey

20.      Gerald Landers

21.      Michael Murphy

22.      Arthur Caball



23.      Ben McKenna

24.      Gerry Keogh

25.      Tommy Flanagan

26.      Willie Heasley

27.      Fred Harris

28.      Jack Courtney


29.          C. O’Reilly

30.          R. Williams

31.          A. Williams

32.          P.J. Fogarty

33.          B. Christle

34.          J.  Cullen

35.          S. Murphy

36.          J.  Ludden

37.          S. Abbott



38.       Pat O’Meara

39.      Tom Kiely

40.      Tom Williams

41.      Tom Ryan

42.      Mick Woods

43.      Sean Walsh



44.      Con Carr

45.      Paddy Flanagan

46.      Paddy Doyle

47.      Eamonn Ryan

48.      B. O’Brien

49.      E. Pegley



50.      Dick Barry

51.      D. Noonan

32.      Tom Healy

53.      G. Rea

54.      Pat Hickey



55.      N. Bourke 

56.      P. Conlon   

57.      P. Walsh 

58.      A. Kelly   


         Individual Entries
59.  Mick Creighton
         60.   Tony Murray
         61.   P.Walsh


Comprtitor No. 1           Philip Clarke T.D.

Competitor No 1 will not be riding. He Is Phil Clark of Dublin, at present serving a term of 10 years' imprisonment in Crumlin Road Prision Belfast.
"Phil" is a Vice-President of the N.C.A.I.


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