Kilkenny hurling mourns two-time All-Ireland winner Denis Heaslip 

Kilkenny hurling mourns two-time All-Ireland winner Denis Heaslip 

Former Kilkenny and Knocktopher hurler Denis Heaslip admiring the All-Ireland club SHC trophy, the Tommy Moore Cup

The great Kilkenny hurler Denis Heaslip, often described as the 'DJ Carey of his day', has died.

Heaslip won two senior All-Ireland titles with Kilkenny, in 1957 and 1963, Waterford the opposition both times. He also won three Leinster senior medals and one National Hurling League medal.

He hurled with the Knocktopher club, since merged into Shamrocks — the current All-Ireland club champions.

Heaslip was acclaimed for his elegance and lightning pace, playing mostly in the half-forward line for his county.

In a profile interview, written by PM O'Sullivan in September, Heaslip was described by PJ O'Sullivan as "way ahead of his time". 

"Something in the style of DJ Carey, you could say, but probably even faster across the ground, if you can believe that.

"He was so skilful, like Jimmy Doyle of Tipp. He could run full belt and strike left or right without breaking stride. Most lads could only try to stop Denis by hocking or tripping him. But he never reacted."

Last night, the Shamrocks club tweeted: "Shamrocks GAA Club are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Denis Heaslip earlier today. Denis will be fondly remembered by all in the Club and Parish. #oneofthebest"

Heaslip, playing alongside another Kilkenny great Frank Cummins, won a Kilkenny junior title with Knocktoper in 1965. 

Ballyhale and Knocktopher, along with an older club Knockmoylan, amalgamated as Shamrocks in January 1972. The club has since won eight All-Ireland club titles and 18 Kilkenny SHC titles.

Speaking in that interview, Heaslip regarded the mid-1950s as a great turning point in Kilkenny hurling, especially after a 'one parish' rule was introduced for the 1954 season, meaning the leading clubs could no longer hoover up talent from smaller clubs. 

"You'd have to mark that time as a genuine turning point," Heaslip said.

"First, you were giving the opportunity, with the one parish rule, for clubs to get better organised. They now knew they could hold on to their best players. So they could plan, and there was an incentive to build for the future. Before that, it was more or less just season to season.

"But in Kilkenny you have to win. Nothing is sealed in Kilkenny until you win an All-Ireland, until you attach an All-Ireland to whatever new rule. 1957 was massive, because half our team were from junior clubs, like myself."

Denis Heaslip, pictured this year
Denis Heaslip, pictured this year

Heaslip described the influences that shaped him as a hurler.

"I grew up watching serious hurlers around Knocktopher and it made me think of trying to be a hurler. Bill Walsh, from outside the village, was brilliant with Kilkenny during the 1940s. Bill hurled with Carrickshock, and they were our senior team to follow, at the time."

You can read the full interview here

 

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