Monday 18 December 2017

Where are they now?


(Former Kilkenny hurler)

Playing soccer for the Republic of Ireland isn't a feat that would be usually associated with an All-Ireland-winning Kilkenny hurler but Michael Walsh claims both honours.

First and foremost, Walsh was a hurler. He's the son of legendary Kilkenny goalkeeper and manager Ollie Walsh and growing up he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

He experienced limited success as an underage hurler but when he joined the senior ranks as Kilkenny's first-choice goalkeeper in the early 1990s that all changed.

In 1991, he won his first Leinster senior title and despite losing to Tipperary in the All-Ireland final, Walsh picked up an All Star award. The following year he earned another Leinster title and Kilkenny also brought home the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Walsh's father was manager at that time, making the occasion extra special for the Dicksboro man.

"It's 20 years since we won that All-Ireland and although young people now wouldn't believe it but it was the first time in nine years Kilkenny had won an All-Ireland final. To be part of that was incredible feeling."

In 1992, he also collected a second All Star award. And even though Kilkenny were a major force in hurling back then, Walsh didn't foresee his county dominating the championship in the future the way they have done in recent years. "I didn't think at that time that Kilkenny would be so strong. When I was playing the standard was so even and on any given day any team could beat another.

"In Kilkenny, we are so privileged and to be around to see that team. We are so lucky to have seen some of the greatest players that played the game."

Soccer was also a sport that Walsh excelled at. He played for Kilkenny City right through the youths ranks onto senior and during his career had several offers from other League of Ireland clubs. He also played junior soccer for Ireland and captained them on one occasion.

"I often played four matches in one weekend between soccer and hurling. My mother used to say I'd go in one door with one gear bag and go out the other with another gear bag."

Walsh works in St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny and has done so for 23 years. From 2007 to 2011, he managed the Kilkenny under 21s but this year he opted to take over a local intermediate team, the Emeralds.

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