By Michael McMullan
LIAM Hinphey packed plenty into a life with GAA around every corner.
He passed away on Sunday at this home in Dungiven. Within hours, the town’s footballers stood side by side in tribute before their win over Lavey.
For a man renowned for his love of hurling, he also played football with Derry and was part of the late Frankie Kearney’s management team that delivered back-to-back Ulster titles in the 1975 and 1976.
Born in Derry, Liam moved to Kilkenny where he was schooled in the hurling nursery that is St Kieran’s College.
There was a tribute form the James Stephen’s club – the Village – in Kilkenny.
“Liam was a great friend and supporter of the James Stephens Club from his early days in Kilkenny and we have many happy memories of our meetings with him since moving to Dungiven. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a ainm dílis.”
“A hurling giant,” former Kilkenny star Eoin Larkin added.
“I had the absolute pleasure of spending a bit of time in his company. Condolences to his family, friends and all @KevinLynchHC. May he RIP.”
After graduating from UCD, Liam returned to Derry where he took up a teaching position in St Patrick’s, Dungiven.
Legend tells of Hinphey finding a bag of unused hurls in a store and he out them to good use as he began to preach the hurling gospel.
Having won titles with Derry club St Finbarr’s, he moved to Dungiven were be married Mary K Brolly. Together, they had four children – Emer, Kieran, Kevin and Liam.
Kevin is the current Kevin Lynch’s senior manager, Liam is the goalkeeper while Emer has won medals with the Bredagh club in Belfast.
“Liam was a former St. Finbarr’s player and won, with his brother Colm, two county senior hurling championships in the 1963 and 64,” the St Finbarr’s club said in their online tribute.
“Liam was always interested in the progress of the present St. Finbarr’s club.”
His imprint was all over the hurling scene in Dungiven where he played for and managed Kevin Lynch’s before becoming club president.
The club will pay tribute to Liam in their own time, but they posted a photo of all the flags – including Derry and Kilkenny – flying at half-mast at Kevin Lynch Park.
It was accompanied with the following line from local photographer Mary K Burke.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” she posted in tribute over the weekend.
Derry GAA also paid tribute to Liam.
“Liam Hinphey transformed hurling in county Derry when he took up a full-time teaching post in the mid-60s,” Derry GAA added in their tribute.
“A giant of a man with a personality to match, Liam Hinphey’s legacy will endure for generations to come.”
“The Big Show”, as he was nicknamed by players he coached, was about more than hurling. He loved sitting in the corner of Jim McReynolds pub, a spot many said was his office. The craic would be mighty.
The scene at Liam’s wake on Monday night summed up the closeness of the Derry hurling community.
Inside, the walls of the house were covered in photos of his family’s involvement. Their own museum.
In the room where Liam was waked, a feature from The Irish News was in full view with a headline that said it all – Meet the bás.
The Kevin Lynch’s senior team arrived en masse to pay their respects.
The backyard was littered with local GAA connections, many rivals from days gone by.
The Cassidy brothers from Sleacht Néill. The McGrellis family from Banagher. Lavey manager Mickey McCormick. Derry manager Johnny McGarvey.
There was the maroon and white of Cushendall with Neil McManus coming to pay his respects.
And the connections weren’t just hurling in that 30-minute window. Mickey Lynch, a player under Hinphey with Derry footballers was paying his respects. His son Mark who won a Hogan Cup with Liam Jnr.
Liam Hinphey senior was just one of those iconic figures. The Big Show’s legacy will live on.