Saturday 26 May 2018

Star man Frankie shone in great era

Eamonn Sweeney

It's fitting that the one All-Ireland hurling final which has turned up on the silver screen is the 1957 decider between Kilkenny and Waterford which provided the backdrop to the British comedy, Rooney. The movie starred matinee idol John Gregson as a Dublin dustman and isn't half as bad as you might imagine.

Fitting because the 1957, 1959 and 1963 finals rank among the highest-scoring and most exciting of all time. And because that Waterford team in particular, even though it only won one All-Ireland, was among the most charismatic to ever play the game. It was the team of Seamus Power, of Tom Cheasty, of Philly Grimes and of the great Frankie Walsh who died last week at the age of 76.

Walsh wasn't just an inspirational captain, he was one of the great wing-forwards of his day, prospering at a time when attackers got much less protection than they do today. His annus mirabilis was perhaps 1959 when the 23-year-old scored five points in the drawn final and gave a man of the match performance when slotting over eight points as Waterford won the replay 3-12 to 1-10.

The 1963 final defeat was something of a swansong for Waterford who entered a period of decline but Walsh played on until 1970. He was also remarkably durable at club level, winning a county record 13 senior championships with Mount Sion, the last in 1972. The Mount Sion side which won nine county titles between 1953 and 1961, and 12 of 13 between '53 and '65, and included Grimes, Power and Walsh, ranks as one of the finest club teams in the history of the game.

There's a bit of film from RTE which shows Frankie Walsh talking about the 1959 final. He gives a fine, unassuming performance, revealing he didn't know the first match had ended in a draw until he left the pitch, and detailing the banter he had with President De Valera before the presentation. It would do your heart good.

Waterford City Council should name a street after this man. We'd all be proud to walk on it.

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