Mother’s Day Special: Joan, Joanne & Michelle Murphy

Joanna, Joan and Michelle
Joanne Murphy, the voice behind Tri-Talking Sport, chatted to us alongside mum Joan and sister Michelle about the power of teamwork, the silver lining on every cloud, and how they have inspired one another.

Congratulations Joanne on your recent appointment as President of the Galway branch of BPW. Can you tell us a little bit about your role?

We are a local club, part of the Irish Network of BPW, which is a tributary of an international federation of clubs from around the world. We aim to share, educate, and give a voice to women. A lot of people assume it’s just for people who are self-employed or run businesses, that’s not the case. We are for people across the arts, nurses, teachers, bankers, accountants – anyone in a professional capacity. The more people participate, the more friends you’ll make and relationships you’ll build. Of course, it will have a knock-on effect on your business too, which is a plus. Much like my mum and my sister, this group of women have supported me and inspired me, and that’s what we are about.

How do you three ladies inspire one another?

Joanne: The reason we moved to Galway is because my father, Richard, passed away unexpectedly in 2004. Mum is originally from Bushypark and we moved back after Dad’s passing. Michelle has a mild form of cerebral palsy and epilepsy, but she’s an incredibly strong person. She enrolled in a Master’s in NUIG, despite suffering from post-traumatic stress and huge epilepsy issues that saw her having major surgery 10 years ago. She has worked in the Galway City Council for the past 10 years and has never let her disability hold her back. Sometimes I still look at her as a girl, but she’s such a strong woman. I am so proud of what she has achieved considering the obstacles that have been put in her way.

Michelle: When you’ve got a child or a sister with a disability, it adds a very different dynamic to a family. The lengths Mum and Dad went to, to ensure I got the best care possible and the best opportunities in life, were endless. Looking at the physical aspect of strength is one thing, but the emotional and mental strength that Mum had to be able to bring us back to Galway and rebuild our lives was just incredible. She moved to Cork with Dad back in 1976, with no family down there, and after he passed she moved lock, stock and barrel and created a whole new life, again, here in Galway. She’s certainly not afraid of a challenge. She even set up the Knocknacarra Ladies Group, a fantastic women’s club with a good friend of hers. They have 70 members and they meet every second Thursday.

Joan: If someone told me before Richard died that I would buy a house, sell a house, and start a new life, no way would I have believed them. You don’t know what you’re capable of until it’s put in front of you. I never picked up a paintbrush, a screwdriver, absolutely nothing. I changed the lock on a door and that was my major achievement after being in the house for a couple of months. You take what’s dished out to you when the unexpected occurs. You also have to fight for everything when you have somebody with an illness or disability. We were lucky that Michelle got into Beaumont and received fantastic treatment, that really was the turning point for her. When Richard passed, Joanne really took over as the head of the house and moved down to Galway to support us.

Joanne: I moved close enough to get hot dinners a couple of times a week, but not so close that she would be knocking on my door on a Sunday morning!

Michelle: I can’t go to the gym because my epilepsy is sound-related. A lot of it is under control at the moment, but last year Joanne set up The 12 Days of Christmas Challenge. Essentially to complete 12 hours of activities in that period. I decided to give it a go and I was hooked! This is from a girl that years ago couldn’t walk outside the front door because if I heard a car horn I could fall over and have a fit. To get out there and start doing, that was massive for me. We all went to Barcelona in October to support some of the athletes in the Galway Triathlon Club. While I was there I completed the Irongirl, which is a 3K walk. Now fitness is a big part of my life as I try to push the boundaries and that’s all thanks to Joanne who has inspired my inner athlete to come out!

You travel together quite a lot, how do you all get along?

Joanne: A lot of people, especially when you are younger, would be quite shocked at the prospect of going on holidays with your mother and sister. I actually think it’s a very special thing that we have. Mum will still give out to us for eating crap or spending too much money! And of course, dropping in the usual things ‘when are you getting married, have you found a husband yet?’ When we go on holiday, we’re like three best friends and I think that’s very special because the trauma of Dad dying so suddenly was genuinely so hard. We had to rebuild our lives completely. But we’re stronger in numbers than we are as individuals and we are there to support each other in every way we can. I get the opportunity to work abroad quite a bit. We’ve been to Dubai and Hawaii, and often the two will tag along. In April we’re going to Krakow and then I’m going away to Majorca with a few from the triathlon club so these two will probably join us!

Michelle: We do fall out, like any other family. It’s never anything major though as we have learned each other’s ways and routines.

Joan: Like we always know Joanne will be out training every day! Michelle will meander off and find a quiet place to get a coffee and have some downtime.

Joanne: I think the fact that I don’t live at home anymore helps, so I don’t cause too much trouble. If I was living at home, I’d probably be out in the shed!

Joan, what are you most proud of the girls for?

I am so proud of Michelle and how far she has come from her illness. She’s ready to conquer the world. She has been doing physio for the last couple of months and she’s like a new Michelle. She has a totally different outlook since she did the Irongirl in Barcelona. She’s so much happier in herself. And the other one?

Joanne: Oh, the other one!

Joan: On the outside she’s like me, but on the inside she’s very much her dad. She sees the good in everyone and she’s such a positive person. She does talk an awful lot though!

Joanne: Michelle calls me the hurricane because I come in the door, talk at 90 miles an hour, and leave again!

Joan: That’s so true! But what Joanne has achieved is also incredible. She has two Irish cycling records, she does fantastic work with Ironman and Enable Ireland and she is an accomplished MC and sports presenter. Her career has flourished but she’s also so generous, she is always there for us. I am so incredibly proud of both of them.

Decide what you don’t want to do, then you can decide exactly what you want to do.

What is the most important thing your mother has taught you both?

Michelle: To be tough, and to keep going. No matter what you want, go out and believe in yourself and you can do it.

Joanne:  Never give up, and have fun along the way. Neither Mum or Michelle let me get away with much. They keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.

Joan: I always say, it’s better to be born lucky than born rich. For example, how Joanne fell into Ironman. Initially she was training when she was asked to join the team as a voiceover, so she had to turn down the gig. But in the meantime, she fractured her pelvis so she was available. Everything happens for a reason. When one door closes, open the door again because that is what a door is for!

Joanne: And if the door isn’t there, go and build it yourself!

Images: Sean McCormack

Catch our full Mother’s Day shoot in the March Issue of GALWAYnow Magazine

GALWAYnow March Issue

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