Muiris Walsh: Blue and Gold twice over

Muiris pictured with Tipperary football legend and WIT Alumnus Declan Browne.

Muiris pictured with Tipperary football legend and WIT Alumnus Declan Browne.

Part Two

Last week we learned how Tipperary native Muiris Walsh fell in love with Ballymacarbry 15 years ago and why along with his wife Cathriona he has, along with their children Sean and Bronagh, have thrown themselves fully in behind every thing that goes on in that beautiful part of the Deise.

Muiris is a vital member of the Fourmilewater Hurling Club and the Nire GAA Football Club. A self-confessed sports nut and he recalled the wonderful days of soccer in Waterford and his deep rooted passion for Clonmel Town FC. This week, Muiris continues his story which includes his love for broadcasting and much more.

“In 1999, I was appointed PRO of Clonmel Town FC, a position I proudly held until 2010. I also served the as treasurer of the club,” he told me.

“The main part of my job as PRO was providing match reports for the local papers, The Nationalist and South Tipp Today. As well as liking my reports, they were also aware of my love of Gaelic Games and asked me would I cover some local and inter-county matches. I loved covering the games and had the privilege of witnessing some fantastic games and individual displays.”

Muiris, pictured with former Tipperary TD and key Irish Government advisor, Martin Mansergh.

Muiris, pictured with former Tipperary TD and key Irish Government advisor, Martin Mansergh.

Muiris continued: “Mike McCartney was head of Sport in Tipp FM and he approached me to do some punditry on local soccer. Ronan Quirke then began his excellent and popular Monday sports show, ‘Extra Time’ and I became a resident panellist on the show. I tried to be very honest, sincere and fair in my opinions. I always tried to speak on behalf of the supporter.

“Then out of the blue I was asked if I would go an interview 16 times World Darts Champion Phil Taylor. Again I’m a fan of the sport and whilst I was nervous, I was confident enough that I could conduct a good interview. I did my research and it aired unedited. I will be forever grateful to Ronan Quirke and his producer Ian O’Connor for giving me that opportunity.”

Muiris waxed delightfully, so why interrupt him! “I was fortunate enough then to present ‘Extra Time’ when on the rare occasions that Ronan was absent. Following on from that I presented Tipp FM’s flagship show, ‘Tipp Today’ which eventually led to me getting my own show ‘Conversations with Muiris Walsh’ (common ground with this reporter!).”

He added: “My brother Ruairi was a well known broadcaster having worked for amongst others Tipp FM, Radio Ireland and Lyric FM. I was and still am very proud of his versatility as a broadcaster. He started on the wireless back in 1981 with a local pirate radio station. I was however determined to have my own style and not become a ‘lite’ version of Ruairi. His advice and experience proved very valuable to me.

“I got to interview many interesting people, not just from the world of sport. People like Governor of Mountjoy, John Lonergan, Alice Leahy of Trust, Philomena Lynott which was a big thrill for me as I am a huge Phil Lynott fan.

“Former Government minister and peacemaker Martin Mansergh rang me a few weeks after our interview looking for a copy of it as he wanted to reference it in an autobiography he intends to write. and that made me feel very proud.

Phil 'The Power' Taylor, one of Muiris's favourite interviewees.

Phil 'The Power' Taylor, one of Muiris's favourite interviewees.

“In the sporting world I interviewed Declan Browne, Paul Curran, John Leahy, Kenneth Egan, Len Gaynor, Richard Stakelum, Denis Leamy, Alan Quinlan, Stephen Napier and Sean Kelly…I always went into interviews with my research done but I always tried let my guest be the sole focus and do exactly what the show said, have a conversation as opposed to an interview with set questions. I always asked friends ‘what question would you like me to ask’: some suggestions I used, others I didn’t…

“My show went out between 5 and 6pm on Saturdays: I always was conscious that people maybe in their car listening or perhaps in their kitchen. Therefore I want to give them some ’sssh’ moments, that’s where the listener tells somebody to be quiet because ‘I want to hear this!’”

But of course not every interview goes as well as one envisages. “But then some go in a way you don’t expect, for example Martin Mansergh talking about his love of growing organic fruit and vegetables. But the one interview that got away from me was Tipperary hurling legend Jimmy Doyle. I had Jimmy organised for my third series but sadly I got sick and the interview never happened. Jimmy died suddenly last year. Thankfully I have a photograph taken with him a function in Thurles a number of years ago.”

Muiris then told me about his illnesses. “Back in 2012, I got sepsis and-in 2013 suffered a stroke. The stroke/sepsis left me with ME, Aphasia and a functional neurological disorder. If you say why me, the answer is why not. I haven’t been able to return to the airwaves but who knows someday I might. I miss it.”

As for home, Muiris said: “The community here in Ballymacarbry were brilliant to me and my family. I felt the full force of community spirit. The kindness shown to me, was and still is a huge part of the healing process. There are only two institutions left standing in this country, the Credit Unions and the GAA. Both are owned and run by the people for the people. They have kept community’s alive.

“Two years ago I was well enough to take over as kit man for the Nire and Fourmilewater adult teams. Running around the Mill Field or Fraher Field after footballs and sliothars doesn’t sound rewarding and people told me it’s the worst job you could have, well for me it proved to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

“I then took over as PRO for both clubs and last year as Secretary of Fourmilewater. I felt I owed the people and the GAA something in return. I love being involved with the teams, it’s tough but rewarding work. The players are a great bunch of men and they have inspired me to keep going when my health is poor.

“My wife and I both agree that I would not have made the improvements health wise where it not for me being involved with the club and the teams. My health did suffer a few setbacks this year and I’ve had to pull back a little but I will stay on as Secretary and PRO.

“Fourmilewater and the Nire have produced great players like the O’Gorman twins, Ger Walsh, ‘Big Tom’ Walsh, Brian Wall, Shane Walsh, Pat Walsh, Liam Lawlor, Conor Gleeson, Dermot Ryan and current all star Jamie Barron to name but a few. I’m also very proud of the contribution Michael Ryan has made to hurling and ladies football.

“On the administration side, Pat Grant is Chairman of the Western Board. Current County Board Chairman Paddy Joe Ryan is one of the finest administrators I have ever come across. And this is all before you come to the ladies and their magnificent footballers. I doubt if there is any place in Ireland of similar size that continues to produce such talent. We don’t have to go too far to find our heroes – they’re are all around us – we just need to recognise them.”

Muiris concluded: “My heart is in Tipperary wherever I go but I would find it near impossible to leave Ballymacarbry. Myself, Triona and our two Waterford loving children are very happy here.

“My two children are Waterford to their bones and Nire/Fourmilewater to their marrow. I’ve been asked by numerous people as to why Bronagh and Sean in particular doesn’t shout for Tipp: why should they? They were born, bred and being reared in Waterford. Wherever life’s journey takes them, their hearts will be in Waterford wherever they go.”

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