Kilkenny topped Tipp before with Ollie at the helm
1967 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Champions - Kilkenny Front Row (l to r) - Martin Coogan, Martin Brennan, Seamus Cleere, Jim Treacy (Capt.), Jim Bennett, Paddy Moran, Tom Walsh. Back Row (l to r) - Ted Carroll, Pat Henderson, Claus Dunne, Eddie Keher, John Teehan, Pat Dillon, Jim Lynch, Ollie Walsh.
By Angela Doyle
Hurling legend Ollie Walsh would have loved the four-in-a-row hype.
He would also have loved the hype surrounding this year’s match against Tipperary as the last time that he played against Tipperary in 1967 in an All-Ireland final, Kilkenny was victorious.
With the 2009 All-Ireland final only days away memories for many people come flooding back of the good ole’ days when KIlkenny last beat the Premier county at this level.
The late Ollie Walsh played in the 1967 All-Ireland Final and then in 1991 Ollie went on to manage the Kilkenny team and his son Michael also played on that team. Ollie was known as one of the greatest hurlers and goalkeepers of all time and his hometown of Thomastown has a statue erected in his honour to mark his commitment to Kilkenny hurling.
Ollie was also the recipient of many awards and honours on and off the field. In 1967 his hurling prowess earned him the prestigious Texaco Hurler of the Year award, making him the first goalkeeper to win the title. Billy Walsh, Ollie’s son is another great past hurler and sports person and he spoke to the Kilkenny Advertiser about his late father and what he would have thought about today’s four in a row.
“He would love to be around now with the buzz of the four in a row. He really would have enjoyed the hype and the build up to it, especially as the opposition is Tipperary. He would probably tell you that it will be a very close and tense game,” added Billy.
While many legends probably would have reminisced about their past achievements, Ollie Walsh was a modest man and he didn’t sit around the family table talking about his successful hurling career.
“My father was a very modest man, he never really spoke of his hurling career. I was two years old when he played against Tipperary and I actually didn’t see the recording of that game until 1993.”
Billy remembers fondly one important story his father told him of 1967 when he probably shouldn’t have lined out with the Kilkenny hurling team.
“The only thing my dad would have said of that game was that he probably shouldn’t have been playing. He was playing a game of ‘catch’ on the way up to the game with the lads and he won and accidentally in the process drove his hand through a glass. He needed a few stitches that day but went on to play with no bother,” he laughed.
When Ollie retired from playing hurling in 1972 he later moved on to managing the senior hurling team and was just as calm and focused as a manager as he was as a player. According to Billy his Dad never felt worried before a game.
“My Dad was a focused man, he wouldn’t have been anxious or worried before a game even when he managed the Kilkenny senior hurling team. He was normally a bit quieter the night before a big game but that’s all, he kept his usual routine.”
Like many parents who encourage their children to enjoy sport Ollie was no different with his children.
“He encouraged all of us to play all kinds of sport, myself and Michael and all of us were involved not just in hurling but other sports as well,” said Billy.
“Michael even played under our Dad’s management from 1991 to 95 in goal for Kilkenny.”
It doesn’t just stop there. Michael is the Kilkenny under-21 manager, following in his father’s footsteps, and Ollie Junior, Michael’s son, is playing in the minor team this Sunday against Galway.
Hurling is clearly in the Walsh blood - let’s hope the Kilkenny team of 2009 can bring home the goods as the Kilkenny team did with Ollie on board in 1967.