David Walsh was perhaps the man closest to breaking into the starting XV ahead of the 2012 All-Ireland final when Donegal were preparing to take on Mayo at Croke Park.
As it turned out, the Naomh Brid clubman had to content to start on the substitutes’ bench but was the first man that Jim McGuinness turned to, introduced for Ryan Bradley some 39 minutes in at Croke Park as Donegal would eventually run out winners on a 2-11 to 0-13 scoreline.
Donegal Chairman Mick McGrath makes a presentation to David Walsh retiree of the 2012 All-Ireland. Photo Geraldine Diver
McGuinness was always a fan of Walsh. Looking back this year the former Donegal manager, who won three Ulster titles and Sam in 2012, said Walsh was the type of character who fitted the bill.
“I remember going to a match and David Walsh, who was playing with a Division 3 team in Naomh Brid at the time,” McGuinness said.
“I remember seeing him in a game before I took over. They were getting absolutely annihilated in a Championship match and he was still running himself into the ground. I was just thinking: ‘That’s the type of person that I want’.”
When Donegal pulled out of the Burlington Hotel and made their way to the hills the day after defeating Mayo, they eventually came in at Pettigo over the Termon Bridge.
And whilst an estimated 20,000 supporters waited in rain under the crackling umbrellas at the Diamond in Donegal town, Walsh was the first of the 33 panel members to get to show off Sam at his home club, with a pitstop in Ballintra beforehand.
A cruciate knee injury ended what had been a promising spell at English League club Luton Town as a youngster — Walsh won a place on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) at Kenilworth Road after impressing for Leicester City in a summer trip to Holland.
However, as one door closed another opened. At 26, Walsh made his championship debut under Brian McIver as Donegal faced Derry in the 2008 Ulster SFC.
“One of my biggest regrets is not having that extra five years, before 2008,” Walsh said. “A lot of lads had that and you can even see with the current panel, they are young and their goal is winning Ulsters and they’ve managed that back-to-back now, so they’re pushing on all of the time.
“For my first few years, we couldn’t get to that level of winning Ulster despite all the talent we had. But it’s very impressive now to see how Donegal are sustaining things. I’d hope our successes helped inspire them when they were 14 or 15 years of age. It was a great time for the county.”
Walsh was a vital panel member for McIver, John Joe Doherty, McGuinness and Rory Gallagher before announcing his retirement from inter-county football on the same day as Rory Kavanagh and Christy Toye in January 2017. In all, Walsh made 92 appearances for Donegal; 26 of which came in championship football.
On Saturday night at the Donegal GAA Annual Banquet, Walsh and fellow 2012 All-Ireland winner Frank McGlynn’s services to Donegal football were recognised.
“It was an honour to be on the stage with Frank and to play with all those great players,” Walsh said. “It’s great to have gotten the chance to rub cloth with some of the best players this county has seen. Life takes people in different directions, so it great to meet up with Frank and Michael Murphy and some of the lads again tonight. They’re great friends.”Tags: