Dual stars becoming a past memory but Denis Walsh was one of the best

'If the team was winning and you were playing up to standard, you were taken along on a crest of a wave.'
Dual stars becoming a past memory but Denis Walsh was one of the best

Kerry's Pat Spillane is tackled by Cork's Denis Walsh in the Munster Football final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

AS we stand on the doorstep of Cork’s Munster Championship campaign, it’s worth recalling there was a time when we took the role of the dual star as very common in GAA inter-county circles.

Knockout championships and less congested schedules meant those who were gifted in both codes could balance the big ball with the small ball and play a major part in the heart of the championship summer.

Teddy McCarthy’s famed feats have passed for all time into folklore, but another East Cork man is amongst those who has also starred at the highest tier in both codes.

To embellish his CV Denis Walsh has also managed at inter-county hurling and football level.

He enjoyed a hugely successful dual career with his home county before taking over as football manager in Waterford and hurling boss in Cork.

Hailing from the small quiet rural village of Ballynoe, his heart has always been at home with his beloved St Catherine’s but during a busy managerial career, Denis also has taken charge of Ballyduff, Ballygunner, Ballymartle and Carrigtwohill.

Now away from the glaring limelight of inter-county management, Walsh is currently in charge of the Tallow hurlers but he has been keeping a watching brief on how Cork hurlers and footballers have acquitted themselves as some level of normality creeps back into the sporting calendar.  Last weekend it was all hurling talk, this weekend it’s all football.

Whilst few players still manage the rapid transition, for many years it was a way of life for Denis.

“Yes the likes of Teddy (McCarthy) and myself just seemed to take things in our stride at the time. Even though we had a massive schedule, it was usually one week of football and one of hurling alternated.

“Even at that stage, there were breaks when you could actually return to your club for a night’s training which was also great. We also have a number of nights with no activity. Maybe that’s what is missing in the current setup.

I was young at the time in my early 20s and working off adrenaline. It was never a chore.

“If the team was winning and you were playing up to standard, you were taken along on a crest of a wave.

“If things were different with the team and with personal performances the pressure might then come on with the constant transition.

“Nowadays there is so much extra going on, players get very few nights to switch off.

“Really in the modern game with so much microanalysis, people are scrutinising every kick and every puck, every tackle, every run.

“But 20, 30 years ago, performances were taken at face value.”


In his trophy cabinet, the Financial Adviser with New Ireland Assurance can point to some very striking symbols of success.

The Walsh household just over the boundary fence from St Catherine’s splendidly appointed home ground, has five Munster senior hurling medals and four Munster football medals, alongside two All-Ireland medals in both codes.

Ger Cunningham, Brendan O'Sullivan, Denis Walsh and the Canon in 1990.
Ger Cunningham, Brendan O'Sullivan, Denis Walsh and the Canon in 1990.

There are All-Ireland and Munster U21 football medals, a provincial minor football medal and an All-Ireland junior football medal, Walsh has the full collection. Nobody could contemplate emulating that in the modern-day.

As for the manager’s role on the double?

“There was a big gap between the two roles. But being manager is about preparing a team, creating a good bond and having a good backroom team. To me now it doesn’t really matter what sport you are involved with. We see Jim McGuinness going into soccer.

"Even if you put Jim Gavin into the Dublin hurling set up, I feel it would work as he would bring in the right people with him. Ronan McCarthy is putting in serious work with the Cork group.

“I keep a very close eye on the Cork team nowadays. Even though they have a few injuries, I would be very hopeful that they will give a good account of themselves this year.

“Cork will have to bring their ‘A’ game to beat Limerick first off this weekend. I’ve watched Limerick over the years.

“They just have not come out of nowhere. The standard in club football is quite high. Billy Lee has a very good set up there, but I’d still be hopeful Cork will triumph."

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