James Murphy O’Connor – A Famous Son of Royal Navy Rugby

On Sunday 10 August 2014 Royal Navy Rugby Union lost one of it’s former internationals when James Colman Murphy O’Connor passed away aged 89. The former Navy telegraphist won his solidary cap playing at Number 8 for the Royal Navy against the Royal Air Force in 1948. A game sadly lost 16-11 despite Murphy O’Connors conversion and penalty goal.

For those who follow Irish rugby James Murphy O’Connor will probably be best remembered for his performances for Bective Rangers and Leinster. Performances that brought him to the attention of the Irish International selectors in 1954 when he returned to Twickenham to win his first, and only Irish cap. For many, particularly of the catholic faith, he will be remembered as the eldest brother of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, a former player for the Vatican XV and currently Roman Catholic Archbisop Emeritus of Westminster. However what he should be remembered for is the legacy he left to the Game as a goal kicker.

How many youngsters in recent times have sought to emulate the kicking exploits of their heroes, like Jonny Wilkinson? With hands clasped together and in a slightly ungainly stance they step back two or three paces and then two paces to the side. An arced run up and the ball kicked sweetly with the instep of the foot flies clean and true through the uprights. Well it was a Navy man who introduced the round the corner kick to rugby football union, James Murphy O’Connor. The telegraphist born in Reading who trained in medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons Dublin was one of Royal Navy Rugby Union’s own, winning his first cap alongside Lord Lewin, he was the 247th player to represent the Senior Service.

James Murphy O’Connor, born June 6 1925, died August 10 2014, is survived by his wife of 57 years, Anne O’Neill and their six children.

by Geraint Ashton Jones.