Thursday 22 February 2018

Where are they now? Gary Walsh (Former Donegal footballer)

Before Gary Walsh retired from inter-county football in 1996, he had represented Donegal in 14 consecutive championships.

The stopper's record is even more impressive when you consider the fact he was living outside of Donegal for his entire senior inter-county career, which forced him to make 200-mile round trips for training up to four times a week during championship season.

Walsh himself never saw it as a problem. "It was easier back then," he says. "We didn't have the qualifiers so you wouldn't have as many games as they do now. The football was a good way to keep in touch with people at home."

Walsh feels quite confident that Donegal can beat Derry today. "Donegal have a great chance -- they are well organised, fit and determined. I think it will be close as Donegal never seem to pull away that easily, but there'll be two or three points in it".

He acknowledges that Donegal are using a defensive gameplan but feels it is not quite as negative as some are making out.

"It's frustrating watching it sometimes but they're always able to turn it around. Against Tyrone they were good in the second half and against Cavan they played some good football at times. If McFadden and Murphy can get within 35 yards of goal, there are points to be had."

Today's final will incite mixed memories in Walsh. In 1992, Donegal beat Derry in the Ulster final and went on to win the All-Ireland in what was Walsh's finest season for his county. His form that year led to an All Star award.

"We were the first and unfortunately the last Donegal team to win an All-Ireland." To this day, Walsh is still reminded regularly of the significance of their achievement "Wherever you go someone will always recognise you from that team."

Conversely, one of the lowest points of his career was also an Ulster final against Derry. The following year Donegal lost by two points in a game many including Walsh felt should have been called off due to the weather conditions. "It was a deluge in Clones, the pitch was waterlogged, even the crowd were slipping down the hill beside the pitch."

Walsh now lives in Derry and works as an accountant with the Derry City Council. He was still playing Division Three football for his home club Aodh Ruadh in Donegal until last year. "I miss it. I don't get to see people at home as much now."

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