Tullaroan President Dick Walsh turns 100
By Cian O'Connell
In Tullaroan history and hurling will always matter. That is why an event in Tullaroan last month carried such significance.
Dick Walsh, the Club President, turned 100 on Friday, March 16 so friends, family, and players, past and present, gathered to salute a cherished figure in the locality.
Walsh attended his first All Ireland Final in 1931 and cycled to the 1937 decider at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney. On the playing fields in Kilkenny Walsh won a county title with Tullaroan in 1948. It eventually led to Walsh hurling for Kilkenny in the National Leagues during the 1950s.
Walsh, who is still a popular figure in Tullaroan, is married to Kitty Lawlor, 92, from Urlingford and they have a son Richie and a daughter Dorothy.
Tullaroan always occupied a central role in his life with Club Chairman and namesake Dick Walshe and whoever graduated on to the striped team provided him with a source of pride.
"That was his big thing," Walshe says about watching Tullaroan clubmen hurl for Kilkenny. "He would be a local Tullaroan man to the core."
Tommy Walsh, the distinguished and decorated former Kilkenny hurler, represented Tullamore in the striped jersey and acknowledges Dick Walsh's influence in the parish.
"He is known at home as Dick of the Church, he turned 100 on St Patrick's Day. I can remember him when Tullaroan were going well in the 90s when they were winning County finals and challenging for about 15 or 18 years around that time. Dick was the masseur when the masseur was the local guy, he put together whatever concoction he could and rubbed it into lads hamstrings.
"We were thinking back when we were at his party what age was he, and he was still about 75 at that stage. He was a great character around the place.
"Even the other day he got up, he said a verse of a poem about Tullaroan, he said it with great enthusiasm and conviction. The hairs would be standing on the back of your neck, that is the kind of man he was, he was a great man around the parish."
Tommy Walsh remains a celebrated figure in Tullaroan.
Tommy Walsh recalls being offered some wise counsel in 2009. "I remember meeting him before one of the All Irelands playing Tipperary at the graveyard," Walsh adds.
"It wasn't that I went to the graveyard before every match or anything, but I happened to be at it this particular day. I remember he came up, he was warning me about Tipperary, I hadn't any experience really of playing Tipperary at the time, and he was saying be ready for these lads because these lads will be different in an All Ireland Final.
"It was a great bit of advice because that is exactly what way they were when we played them in the finals. He is great man.
The Tullaroan Chairman Walshe explains that the greatest Kilkenny team seen throughout the decades was Brian Cody's during the 2006-2009 era.
"There is a documentary coming up soon which he features on and the first All Ireland he was at was in 1931," Walshe states.
"They kept asking him the best team he saw down through the years and Dick wouldn't give in and said the best team he saw down through the years was the Kilkenny team that won all the All Irelands, Tommy's team.
"I think they were hoping he would say a team going back the generations, but he wouldn't give in on it. He said 'I'm telling the truth, they are the best team.'
"He was featured on a couple of Up for The Matches before All Irelands, he is a bit of a character. He has great stories and is great at telling at stories."
In March, 2017 Tullaroan honoured Walsh's service so it is fitting that another event was scheduled. "We actually did it on his 99th birthday last year because when a person reaches 99 it mightn't happen again, but we did say to him that if he was here we would go again this year and he was delighted to go ahead.
"Last year we had more than 150 in the local hall. It was a Sunday morning last year, but because of the way the matches are on this year we went with the Thursday evening.
Former Kilkenny star Tommy Walsh pictured with Mattie Butler, uncle Willie Walsh, father Michael Walsh, and Brendan Corcoran at Croke Park in July 2015
"Ned Kennedy, a former schoolteacher in Tulloran, did a bit on something that happened with Dick in every decade of his life."
Walsh's service hasn't been forgotten by Tullaroan or Kilkenny either with former County Board Chairman Ned Quinn a recent visitor. "Ned Quinn looked to see him about a month ago so four of us went over to him, he was delighted," Walshe comments.
"He spoke for two hours with Ned Quinn. He would know what is going on, when he watches matches he has to be near the television because his sight isn't great. Once he hears your voice and gets you talking then he is off."
The Walsh family ties to Tullaroan remain extremely strong. "He is a real local character, he would have cycled to a lot of matches," Walshe remarks. "That is what people did at the time, that is the way life was.
"He stayed with the club all the time. His son was on the team when we won an Intermediate Championship in 1988. He has a grandson in Kieran's and he is starting to play Intermediate with us. He is young, but he is featuring with the team now, he is well able to hurl.
"Richie Walsh his son won an Intermediate with us and he played in a senior final in '92, they were beaten. When we won in '94 his job had taken him to Dublin. Dick is linked with the club since he was a child, that was a big thing all of his life.