Noel Walsh, one of the masterminds behind Clare's 1992 Munster Senior Football Championship win and a progressive GAA administrator, has died.
The Miltown-Malbay clubman was a key figure in Clare football for many decades as an administrator and selector, bringing John Maughan on board as manager for their historic Munster-winning campaign, during which he served on the backroom team and his son Carl was sub-goalie.
He was also influential in introducing an open draw to the Munster Championship a year previous, breaking up the seeding system which had resulted in 25 successive years of Cork-Kerry finals.
In all, he spent three terms as Clare football manager and 20 years as a selector.
Great Clare Football and GAA man, Noel Walsh, passed away last night.A man of great courage, tenacity and good humour. Noel and myself soldiered with various Clare teams but we will always remember 1992. Ar Dheis De go raibh a hanam dilis.@MunsterGAA @officialgaa pic.twitter.com/tQUBzcNWjL— Pat Hanrahan (@PatHanrahan1960) April 29, 2020
After three years as Munster Council chairman, he ran for the GAA presidency, finishing third behind Sean McCague in 1999. He was chairman of the GAA's Football Development Committee, championed the merits of the Railway Cup, and promoted the spread of floodlights to GAA grounds.
Walsh was a prominent campaigner for the abolition of Rule 42 in 2005, opening up Croke Park to host soccer and rugby games during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road.
He subsequently advocated for all county grounds to be opened to other sports. That motion was defeated at the time but subsequently formed the basis for the GAA's relaxing of the rule after the controversy over the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
During his playing days, he won two Clare SFC medals with St Josephs Miltown-Malbay and represented Clare at minor and junior level.
A member of the Defence Forces for four decades, he retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
"Noel made a major contribution to the GAA," said Munster Council Chairman Liam Lenihan. "During his term as Munster Council Chairman, it was his great honour to present the Munster Hurling Cup to Clare captain Anthony Daly in 1995 after a 62-year gap, just three years after serving as a Clare selector when they won the Munster Senior Football title.
"He was a very genuine supporter and one of the people who made the GAA what it is, a community-based worldwide organisation that gives people a sense of pride in their own place.
"His example is being followed today by those helping vulnerable people in their own communities."
Clare County Board Chairman Joe Cooney said: "It is with deep sadness that Clare GAA have heard of the passing of Noel Walsh.
"To say that Noel gave service to his club, county, province, and country would be putting it mildly. He was a leading light in the county of Clare for over five decades. His beloved St Josephs Miltown-Malbay were always in his thoughts and this also was vividly correct for his love of his county.
"Playing and then managing Clare for a number of seasons ended with the most glorious of days in 1992 when his boardroom battles for a Munster open draw ended with Clare taking Munster honours. He served his county at provincial and national level with much success.
"Noel's innovative thoughts allied to a strong determination that the sport and equality for all was always to the fore led him to be one of the most respected administrators in the Association.
"On my behalf as Clare GAA chairperson and behalf of the GAA people of Clare, may I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Ursula, son Carl, daughters Lisa and Noelle, grandchildren, close relatives, friends, and GAA colleagues everywhere."