Sligo’s Gaelic football community and the wider GAA world has been grappling with the news of the sudden and unexpected loss of talented player Red Óg Murphy, who died on Friday.
“It is just utter shock and disbelief,” said former Sligo county player Eamonn O’Hara when asked about the reaction locally. “I was totally dumbfounded to hear it early yesterday morning.”
On Friday night the county under-20 squad were to train in Ballymote ahead of a championship date with Roscommon on April 13. Instead, they decided to abandon training and meet for a conversation as they were still absorbing the news.
Murphy’s younger brother Oisín had been a member of the panel at an earlier stage.
O’Hara is a member of the under-20 management team headed by Dessie Sloyan.
“We have a number of lads who would know Red quite well and would have looked up to him,” O’Hara said. “Some of them were in DCU with him. They were the first to reach out to say there was bad news unfortunately on its way.
“We had a get-together with our under-20s last night and we have four or five of the lads on the Curry team that would know him quite well and one guy in particular would know him really well and we sat for an hour and ended up chatting about him.
“I think overall there was a real sense of disbelief to see a young fella who was a superstar in Sligo gone — he was going to be the future. We saw what he was capable of doing this year with DCU and getting on that Sigerson team of the year.”
Murphy was a driving force on a talented Sligo minor team that reached the Connacht final in 2017, before losing narrowly to Derry in the All-Ireland quarter-final. He spent eight months with Australian Rules side North Melbourne in 2019 before returning home to resume his GAA career.
Paul Taylor was manager of Sligo when he returned to the county set-up.
"He was a massive talent to be honest, with such a big future ahead of him," he said.
"We were all looking forward to that future in Sligo and to watching him playing and watching him progress. The county is in shock. He was a role model for so many young people, for so many of his own age, and younger again.
"He had been a super talent underage. The thing about Red Og as well was that he was a nice lad, a good lad.
"That is what made him endearing, he had time for everybody, he had time to talk to everybody. He was a genuinely nice young man. He comes from a very well-respected family. Our hearts go out to them at this time."
Murphy withdrew from the county panel this year, but had starred for DCU where he was pursuing a teaching qualification in primary education.
At 21 he was an exciting prospect and his return to Ireland was a huge boost for his home club, Curry, in south Sligo.
With his help they won the intermediate championship in 2020 and reached the senior championship semi-finals last year, losing narrowly after extra time to Tourlestrane, the eventual champions.
He made his last Sligo appearance in the heavy championship loss to Mayo in June 2021, at Markievicz Park.
"It is a great loss for everybody," said Taylor, "but none more than his family."