Celebrating Kerry's Iron Man

Kerry's Iron Man, Mick Murphy, working out at his home in Cahersiveen with makeshift barbells.
Kerry's Iron Man, Mick Murphy, working out at his home in Cahersiveen with makeshift barbells.

AIDAN O'CONNOR

The life and achievements of living legend Mick Murphy, known far and wide as The Iron Man, are to be celebrated in Siamsa Tíre in Tralee where an exhibition entitled Blood, Sweat and Gears includes a collection of striking photographs of one of Ireland's most revered cyclists.

Photographer Barry McCarthy is one of the few to have compiled such an extensive portfolio of the Cahersiveen man. Cork artist and filmmaker, Chris Hurley, compiled the exhibition that also includes video footage and documentary of one of Ireland's most notorious cyclists and sportsmen.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Rás Tailteann was one of the most gruelling sporting events in the world. Completing the race was deemed an achievement and victory of the Rás placed athletes among the elite.

The stories that surround Mick Murphy sound more like fairytales than truth. But it is fact that Mick Murphy drank cow's blood and ate raw meat. He trained with weights made from stone and once rode for three days with a broken collar bone. It was said that The Iron Man was indestructible.

Mick made a living as a spalpeen and a circus performer. After winning the 1958 Rás, Mick returned to Kerry to work in local quarry, breaking stones with a crowbar and sledge hammer. All the while, the Iron Man was completing daily training routines of 100-mile cycles.

Aged just 27 years, Mick Murphy retired and took the boat to England where he worked as a builder, road maker, a carnival act, boxer and a wrestler.

Blood Sweat and Gears ,which opens this week at Siamsa Tíre and runs until November 22, tells the story of one of Kerry's greatest sportsmen and his journey to his greatest moment, winning Ireland's toughest cycle race.

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