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1916 All Ireland referees remembered
By Cian O'Connell
The rich contribution Harry Boland, Pat Dunphy, and Willie Walsh to the GAA was highlighted at the Referee's Banquet at Croke Park on Saturday evening.
One hundred years ago Dunphy and Walsh took charge of the All Ireland Finals, while Boland, who reffed the 1914 Football decider and replay, was also remembered.
All three were well versed in dealing with important games at Croke Park and venues throughout the country.
Dunphy was the man in the middle for six All Ireland Football Finals, including five in a row between 1915 and 1919. In 1922 he had the honour of refereeing both Football and Hurling Finals which remains a source of pride according to his grandson Christy. "In 1922 he refereed both of them, which is an unusual thing, only a few people ever did it, " Christy Dunphy, who hurled and acted as a selector for Laois, said.
"That will never be done again the way things are now. He would have been friendly with Willie Walsh, they refereed in conjunction with one another."
Pictured at the GAA National Referees Awards where the late Willie Walsh was honoured are Sean Walsh, Chairman of National Referee Development Committee, Sean Walsh, Uachtarn CLG Aogn Fearghail, Ita Power, Ursula Kenny, and Neil Bourke.
Christy Dunphy tells a nice story about the sliotar used in the 1915 All Ireland Hurling Final. "After the match Willie Walsh gave my grandfather the hurling ball that was used in that All Ireland in 1915 and I have that now, 101 years later I have that at home.
"I suppose the significant thing about it is there was probably only one hurling ball used in the game, they'd only have had one, it isn't like now where you'd have 40."
Michael Collins was a real influence according to Christy Dunphy. "During them times he would have been one of Michael Collins men, during the troubled times. He would have been on the run from the black and tans because he was one of Collins' right hand men, himself and Harry Boland, they were close to Collins. I can remember my own mother telling me that she remembers Collins in our house many times. My mother and father were next door neighbours, she remembers all these things, she only died in May at 96 years of age."
Willie Walsh's links with Gaelic Games in Waterford remain, with the County Ground Walsh Park named in his honour. Mairead Bourke, Walsh's granddaughter, is delighted that the Association acknowledged the service of man, who refereed nine All Ireland Finals, seven in hurling and two in Football.
"It was an honour and a privilege to be present on Saturday night. We, his family, are so grateful to the GAA for recognising Willie Walsh's worth to the early years of the organisation.
"It was wonderful for us, my sister and I remember him well, he used to walk us and he walked the legs off many children. I was 11 when he died so I remember him very well. He married when he was 40 or so because he had helped to rear another family.
Family members of the late referee Harry Boland, Dublin, who refereed the 1914 All-Ireland Football Final and replay and played an active part in the 1916 Rising before dying in the 1922 Civil War, pictured from second from left, grand-neices Brna U Loi
"His sister, Margaret, died at the turn of the century in childbirth. She had three children and died when twins were being born, one twin lived and because of family circumstances the grandmother, my grandfather's mother, took in the four children to rear them. He was the breadwinner in the family, he went out to work in his early 20s and he helped her rear those children.
"One of the twins that lived James Nolan was very close to my grandfather, he was in Na Fianna in Waterford."
Mairead Bourke highlights Walsh's fitness and cool temperament as two reasons why he forged such a successful refereeing career.
"As a referee he must have been a very level headed, calm person," she says. "While he was minding us, he used to walk us all over Waterford city. Even into his 70s we moved from Waterford city to Ballyduff Kilmeaden and he could walk from Waterford out to Ballyduff in his 70s. My mother says that he used to walk from Waterford to Dungarvan, referee a match, and then walk back again."
Always ready, willing, and able to serve the Association Dunphy, Walsh, and Boland's influence was fondly saluted last weekend.