Saturday 22 September 2018

Walsh relishing 'city derby' decider

Ollie Walsh is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father Michael. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ollie Walsh is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father Michael. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Michael Walsh remembers what it felt like in 1993. The ending of a famine for Dicksboro, when the club lifted the Kilkenny senior hurling championship for the first time in 33 years.

His late, great father Ollie had gone close with Thomastown, but they were overwhelmed by Bennettsbridge in the 1967 decider.

While there have been instances of players representing both Dicksboro and James Stephens, tomorrow's finalists, through the years, Michael notes that it's not a recent trend.

Ollie moved to the city in 1960, Michael was born in 1961 in the heart of Dicksboro and went on to hurl for club and county with distinction.

The next generation of Walsh gets to sample the big day when Michael's son, Ollie, lines out at midfield for Dicksboro in an eagerly-anticipated clash with 'The Village'.

For a little perspective, Dicksboro last won the title 24 years ago, while the Village were winners in 2011, for the ninth time.

It's the first final between Dicksboro and James Stephens since 1937, and the first time two city teams have clashed for the Tom Walsh Cup since 1950, when Dicksboro beat Éire Óg after a replay.

Michael says: "It's just never happened (since), for some reason. "The Village have been traditionally very strong, and O'Loughlin Gaels have been there or thereabouts since the early 2000s."

In 1993, Dicksboro drew with the Fenians in the first game, 0-12 each, before winning the replay by 2-9 to 1-9.

Michael recalls: "I was in goal in '93. Both matches were very, very even, and there was only a goal in it the second day.

Replay

"We got the last score in the drawn game if memory serves me right, and a goal early enough in the replay. That kept us ahead and we won by a goal."

Walsh was the only county player on the Dicksboro team back then, but the line-up boasted a lovely blend of youth and experience.

The club's current senior team manager, Mark Dowling, was one of the younger players who'd come through the ranks to make the grade, while Walsh remembers John Marnell and Martin Hanrick, a Wexford man, in front of him.

The rise was meteoric, as Dicksboro were intermediate champions in 1991, before surviving a relegation final a year later.

They were in the mix for the next number of years, losing another final in 1994, while they were also runners-up five years ago.

The question as to why it's taken a while for the club to produce another crop capable of glory (the bookies can't separate tomorrow's finalists) gets Walsh thinking.

"That's the conundrum," he reflects. "Dicksboro have always had a great underage structure through the years.

"I was involved with the U-14s myself in 2004 and 2005, but underage players can be only great to a point."

Walsh remembers a young team in 2012, but with only five or six survivors from that side now, he reckons.

Winning tomorrow would "mean the world" to Walsh and Dicksboro, but it's a coin-toss in many ways.

Walsh notes: "The Village are steeped in tradition, a great club, with a good record in finals as well."

But Dicksboro won't lie down easily. The stage is set for another thriller.

Irish Independent

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