Frankie Walsh, the last man from the Déise to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup, died last week at the age of 76.
The Waterford side that Walsh led to glory retains, even now, a particular place in the affections of those who saw them at their peak: their swashbuckling, fast-paced style of play led to high-scoring games, and neutrals didn’t begrudge them their All-Ireland title of 1959.
There was plenty of evidence of that popularity, and Walsh’s stature in his home place, at yesterday’s funeral at the Holy Family Church and afterwards at Ballygunner Cemetery.
In a fine eulogy, Walsh’s son Peter, himself a former Waterford hurler, described his father’s early struggles. Frankie Walsh overcame pleurisy as a child and was advised not to play sport. In his first championship game with Waterford, he sustained a severe fracture of the skull, and was again advised not to continue with sport. But within 12 months he had won his first Munster senior championship medal; three years later he was an All-Ireland-winning captain, Waterford’s last for over 50 years.
His clubmates said Walsh had always been keen to pass on that mantle; that he had been anxious to see another Waterford player ascend the steps of the Hogan Stand and accept the Liam MacCarthy in his lifetime.
It wasn’t to be. The distinction was Walsh’s until the end, and he wore it well. County Board chairman Tom Cunningham described him well yesterday: a leader on the field, and a leader off it.