Tommy Murphy was born in Graiguecullen, County Carlow in 1921. He was educated in the nearby Knockbeg College in Carlow. Murphy played for the Laois Minors when he was just 15 and came to prominence in 1937 when he played his first senior championship match against Offaly. Remarkably, considering at the time he was only a 16-year-old schoolboy, Murphy lined out against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final that same year.
During the late 1930s and 1940s Murphy was a household name all over Ireland. He won Leinster Provincial medals in 1937, 1938, and 1946. In all Murphy won eight Laois Senior medals and various Railway Cup medals for Leinster. His last game for Laois was against Wexford in the 1953 Championship and two years later he played the last game for his club, Graiguecullen.
In recognition of his skills and long-running contribution to the sport, Murphy was awarded the 1981 All-time All Star Award as no All Stars Awards were being issued at the time of his playing career. In 1999, the GAA honoured Murphy by naming him on the Gaelic football "Team of the Millennium." He was further honoured in 2005 when the organisation named a new football competition, the Tommy Murphy Cup, in his honour.