Reluctant icon Brick rues the one that got away

“A lot of people probably wouldn’t think that I was much good at hurling,” Michael Walsh offers, suggesting later on that, “realistically, I was a very average hurler in terms of hurling ability.”

Reluctant icon Brick rues the one that got away

He holds the record for most hurling Championship appearances, is a four-time All-Star, and might even be Waterford’s greatest ever servant but Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh shrugs at the labels.

“A lot of people probably wouldn’t think that I was much good at hurling,” he offers, suggesting later on that, “realistically, I was a very average hurler in terms of hurling ability.”

It’s a typically Irish aversion to self congratulation but Walsh takes humility to a new level, a reluctant icon if ever there was one.

Sitting in the offices of a PR company in Dublin for an Electric Ireland third level GAA promotion, the 36-year-old gets through the process but clearly isn’t here to glory in a near two-decade long career that only ended after last year’s Championship.

“I was never big into the media side of things, even though I’m surrounded by ye at the moment,” said the Stradbally man.

“It’s something that I never placed a lot of emphasis on, my thing was always about being on the field and I enjoyed the training. I was very lucky to be part of an excellent setup and I suppose the regret was that we never won an All-Ireland while I was there.

That will be something that I’ll regret to a degree but I enjoyed the whole experience and was very lucky to be part of maybe not the top team, but one of the top teams at the time.

Walsh played in two All-Ireland finals for Waterford, in 2008, when he was captain, and 2017, losing heavily to Kilkenny in the former and by three points to Galway in the latter. Unsurprisingly, it’s the 2017 defeat that he views as the near miss.

“Of the two of them that I was involved in, that was the one,” he nodded. “When I was involved and playing for a number of years, I wasn’t doing it to make up the numbers or anything, it was all about winning for me.

“Obviously the ultimate is that you want to finish the year with a win and that was the big thing that always eluded us. No-one likes finishing on a defeat and that’s what we were doing during my career.

That was disappointing because you just want to experience it, that’s what you’re doing it for.

The All-Star awards from 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2017, and the five other nominations he received in 2006, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 clearly don’t float Walsh’s boat. Neither does the fact that most ‘Team of the last 20 years’ selections picked over winter included him.

“All those things are a matter of opinion,” he said. “Realistically, I was a very average hurler in terms of hurling ability but my thing is I always wanted to do the best I could do and I probably knew my limitations a bit more, that’s the big difference between some club players and inter-county players, it’s knowing your limitations.”

But to be named alongside Henry Shefflin, Joe Canning and greats of the game in those 20-year teams must have been flattering?

“Ah sure look, I probably wouldn’t have put myself in there,” responded Walsh. “I played for so long that a lot of people might just throw me in for the sake of it too.

“Those players are fantastic players but I never really enjoyed individual things, never was a fan of them because at the end of the day, as I always said, you can argue about an All-Star or Team of the Decade or something like that but you can’t argue with Henry Shefflin having 10 All-Ireland medals.

Everything is debatable, bar the team that wins, and that’s what I always wanted.

- Michael Walsh was speaking ahead of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Feile Weekened which plays host to the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Semi-Finals. Electric Ireland has live streamed a number of key games throughout the 2020 season to date and will stream both Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals this weekend, visit either www.Electricireland.ie/HEC or www.Gaa.ie/GAANow to access the streams. Electric Ireland’s First Class Rivals campaign in 2020 celebrates the unique aspect of the Electric Ireland Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups which sees the formation of unexpected alliances when county rivals unite to play for their college in pursuit of one common goal.

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