A Tribute To Tony Walsh RIP.

November 8, 2018

Just a few weeks ago in these notes I wished Tony Walsh a speedy recovery from his illness. On the last Sunday in May he’d attended our Senior Hurling Championship first round game in Carrigtwohill but he was hospitalised a few days later. We all hoped Tony would make a full recovery but quickly learned of the gravity of his illness. It progressed so rapidly and on Sunday last July the 22nd Tony passed away at his home in Bartlemy in the presence of his family.

I’ve written the Notes for our beloved Bride Rovers Club for many years now.  I’ve reported on great games, great players and great victories for the wearers of the green, white and gold. It’s been an absolute privilege to try and put in words over the years what the Club means to the people of Bartlemy, Rathcormac and Kildinan. Of course we’ve had our defeats – many heartbreaking losses where victory seemed assured but defeat was our lot. As difficult it was to report on many of those games nothing compare with the task before me know as I attempt to pay tribute to Tony Walsh. He was a great player, officer, selector, supporter but above all a great friend. As we in the GAA Club try and come to terms with our loss our hearts go out to Tony’s wife Nora, his family Matt, Margaret, Michael and Anne Marie, his sisters Bina and Margaret. As a husband, father, and brother and in recent years, grandfather Tony Walsh was a model human being. His friends were many and I doubt if he had an enemy anywhere. You just couldn’t ‘fall out’ with Tony because both on the playing field in his hurling days and in latter life he had a fantastic outlook.  He accepted wins and losses, ups and downs in the same cheery manner. As a neighbour and Bartlemy community member Tony Walsh was one of the best. Doing a turn or lending a helping hand was part of his nature, following in the footsteps of his parents Matt and Hanny. For generations the Walsh’s of Hightown have been linked to everything that was good and wholesome about life in rural Ireland.

Tony wasn’t just a great Bride Rovers man. Like so many of his generation he immersed himself in a wide range of activities. While still a teenager he was Chairman of Bartlemy Macra na Feirme. The point-to-point races are held in Hightown and for many years Tony, along with his great friend Joe Browne held the Position as Joint Clerks of the Scales. When the Car Boot Sale commenced in the parish Tony was always to the fore as a voluntary helper.

There’s a line in the Bride Rovers song;

How oft the tradition of sires they inherit, Rathcormac that reared them and Bartlemy too, it was only natural then I suppose that Tony would have a love of Gaelic game as his father Matt had hurled also. When the Club was formed in 1928 Matt Walsh was appointed Captain of the Minor Hurling team. By his own admission Matt was just ‘a handy hurler’ but he played Minor and Junior for the fledgling Club.  By the time Tony was a young teenager the early glory days of Bride Rovers had faded. The late forties and fifties was a time of low fortunes for Gaelic games in the parish. A Club existed under various names but success on the playing field was very limited. After reaching the Junior B grade final in 1959 no club was affiliated in the parish from 1962 – 1964. During this time local players played with neighbouring teams – Tony played juvenile, minor and junior with Watergrasshill. In December 1964 the Bride Rovers Club was reorganised once more. At the first meeting in Bartlemy Hall an interim five man Club Committee was formed to assist the new Officers. The Committee members were Dave Ryan, Tony Walsh, Tom Heskin, Willie Cotter and Tony O Brien. Donal Lehane NT was elected Secretary for 1965. During the School holidays in early summer Donal went home to West Cork and Tony took over as Club Secretary. The club started off with a Junior B hurling team and Tony soon slotted in as corner back –  a position where he won three East Cork medals, B grade in 1966, A grade in 1968 and 1969. In 1966 when the Rovers made the East Cork breakthrough Tony was secretary and player and Club Chairman Michael Murphy was also on the team. Tony played for the Club until the early 1980’s -lining out at corner back but wearing the number 13 jersey for a few seasons in the 1970’s. He was the traditional corner back, safe, reliable and ever present. He knew his role and his place on the field of play. He played that game as sportsmen did play it, he was manly straightforward and clean on the field. In a long playing career he was never sent off. He was never a man to retaliate or strike a foul blow  – that wasn’t his style. His dual role as player and officer rested lightly on his shoulders – out of the first one hundred games the Rovers played in the 1965 -1967 period Tony lined out in 98 of them ! As a club officer he served as Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Registrar and Juvenile Secretary  – for a total of twenty seven years. When his own playing career finished he became a selector and was involved with the JHL winning teams of 1981 /82, the Minor Co League winning team of 1992 and the East cork JBHC winning team of 1993. When the Club pitch was purchased Tony was very involved in fund raising and in 1983 was on the sub-committee in charge of enclosing the pitch and erecting the wire, stakes and gates. In Centenary year of 1984 the Club decided to borrow £21,000 to build dressingrooms, Tony was one of the first to go Guarantor for the Club. When club funds were very low in 1974 Tony was one of the Club Members who went and cut ash roots and got hurleys made by McCarthys of Killeagh.

Tony was immensely proud to see his sons Matt and Michael wear the green, white and gold of his beloved Bride Rovers. He took a deep interest and pride in all club teams from under age upwards and was always a source of great encouragement even in times of defeat. There was no prouder man than Tony when various Bride Rovers players donned the Red and White of Cork over the last decade. It was beyond Tony’s wildest dreams to see Bride Rovers Contest County Junior, Intermediate and Senior Finals. He was one of our most passionate and dedicated supporters. He never forgot the time when we started off, before Christmas in 1964 and he was so proud and happy to see the growth of the Club. Any Development undertaken in recent years was seen by Tony as further progress and he was always the first to help when financial help was needed.

Tony Walsh epitomised all that is good in the GAA. He loved the games, the Cork teams – but above all he loved the Bride Rovers Club. We can never repay the debt which Tony and people like him have paid to make our Club one of the best in Cork. You were proud to wear the jersey with distinction Tony. We thank you most sincerely and we rightly grieve at your untimely passing. Truly it can be said we will not see your likes again. God bless you and keep you, may Heaven be your home, Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers abú.