Back in the mid-90s I met Muiris Walsh for the first time. His beloved Clonmel Town were playing Waterford Crystal in a Munster Junior Cup game in Clonmel and we remained in touch for some time thereafter.
But, as is often the case, our paths took us in different directions but in recent weeks our paths crossed one again due to the fact that the Nire Gaelic Football team won the Waterford Senior Football title and then stormed into the Munster Club Final after they displayed incredible character to defeat Carbery Rangers in the semi-final.
Things didn’t go according to plan in the decider as Dr Croke’s proved too strong on the day in Mallow but it was really great to meet Muiris once again lately and it’s incredible how life can change in such a period of time.
There is no doubt whatsoever that he is now very much an adopted Waterford man and he was only too happy to tell me about his love for the Deise and his passion for sport.
“First things first, let me set the record straight,” Muiris began. “I’m from Clonmel, a Tipperary man. My heart is there wherever I go. That said, I have always had Waterford connections.
“I love all sports. I’m Secretary and PRO of Fourmilewater Hurling Club and PRO of The Nire GAA Football Club, something I’m very proud and honoured to do. I also used to be a contributor and broadcaster on Tipp FM and for the local press in Tipperary. Radio is still my favourite medium. It teaches you to listen.”
Muiris addded: “I am a big fan of Clonmel Town FC, Manchester United and Waterford United. Back in September 2001 I married my lovely wife Cathriona and we decided to live in Ballymacarbry. Fifteen years later and neither of us have any regrets; Sean came along in September 2004 and daughter Bronagh in January 2007. Both of my children were born in Waterford and are passionate Nire/Fourmilwater and Waterford supporters. There is no grey area!”
So why Ballymac? “Well, it’s simple but let me get my background out of the way first. My mother Terry died when I was eight. I was the youngest of five. I have two older sisters Molly and Carainn. My two older brothers are Eoin and Ruairi I went to live with my father’s sister Aunty Molly and her husband, our beloved Uncle Sean O’Neill in Morton Street, Clonmel.
“My father Dick worked all his life in Bulmers but didn’t drink. Bulmers were and are still a great company, who employed, fed and educated half the population of the town – we always had Cidona at Christmas. Sadly it’s no longer made in Clonmel, but I still think of it as an integral part of Clonmel. To this day, my two brothers and I can’t eat our Christmas dinner without Cidona!”
He continued: “My Uncle Sean or John as he was known in Waterford was a health inspector and was originally from The Rockshire Road in Ferrybank. He was the eldest child of Albert and Minnie. Along with my sister Carainn, he was the most beautiful Irish speaker I ever heard. The Irish language was a huge passion for him but he also had a passionate interest in all sports, especially soccer and hurling, He had a car and was a big Waterford FC supporters. My two brothers and I spent much of our childhood in Kilcohan Park following ‘The Blues’.
Johnny Matthews, John O Neill,Thomo, Dave Kirby ‘Super Mac’ Tony Macken were all heroes of mine. I was there the day Bobby Charlton played for Waterford against a Saint Pats side that included Alfie (Hale) – and I still have my Dad’s ticket from the 1968 European Cup tie in Landsdowne Road between Manchester United and Waterford.
“My brother Eoin still reckons that the 1972 League decider in Flower Lodge between Waterford and Cork Hibs was the most exciting game of any code he has ever attended. Waterford were two down but goals from Carl Humphries, Alfie Hale and my hero Johnny Matthews won the game and League for the Blues. Eoin is a hurling nut, a soccer referee and a Man United season ticket holder…there were 25,000 people in Flower Lodge that day. A week later, Miah Dennehy scored that famous hat trick in the cup final to deny Waterford the double.”
Muris stayed on the 1972 theme. “The night before the 1972 Cup Final, Val Doonican appeared on The Late Late Show. My mother and father were big fans of his. Val told Gay Byrne that he was home for the Cup Final. My mother – not realising that there would be 30,000 in Dalymount Park – warned Eoin not to come home without Val’s autograph. Amazingly after the game, Eoin was standing outside Dalymount Park with our Dad, Sean and his brother Billy. Who came along in a car driven by Doctor Bob O Driscoll only Val Doonican. He rolled down the window and my brother got his autograph and brought it home to our mother!”
He continued: “Seven years later, I was one of the 14,000 packed into Dalymount Park as Dundalk broke my 12-year-old heart by beating Waterford 2-0 in the Cup Final and completing the double. I can still remember the linesman with his flag up for offside and Thommo with his hand in the air as Sean Byrne put Dundalk one up after about five minutes. I’ve never forgiven referee Paddy Daly for overturning that decision and ignoring the linesman flag. A bad day was made even worse as on the way home we ran out of petrol and my Uncle had to walk five miles to a garage in Rosegreen for fuel…
“Still, 12 months later, Waterford were back in the Cup Final. The final was played the day after Johnny Logan won the Eurovision and the day before JR Ewing was shot in ‘Dallas’. Brian Gardiner’s headed goal ended that 43-year wait for the cup to come back to Suirside. Waterford beat a great St Pat’s side that included the great Jackie Jameson. The scenes at the homecoming the following night are still etched in my memory – and I still have a picture of me in the stand from the following Thursday’s Munster Express!”
Muiris is proud of the connection between Clonmel Town and Waterford FC/United. “the late Shay Brennan managed and played with Town as did Peter Bryan. Dave Kirby played with Town in the Munster Senior League. Many have gone the other way. Maurice Slater, Martin Blossom Quinlivan, Billy Byrne, Paul Scully and Kevin Waters to name but a few.”
And then we moved back onto living in Ballymac. “As I said, my uncle had a love for the Irish language and we spent many summer days in Ring and Helvick. I love that part of the world.
“Back in 2000 I was travelling to Ring with Cathriona from Clonmel and we spotted the development at Deerpark View. The location and price etc suited us plus we both knew that if we ever had children, it would be a perfect place for them to grow up.
“Our instincts were spot on. We have never regretted that decision. Our children have wonderful friends and live in a place where community is everything. That wonderful community spirit is thriving here in Ballymacarbry. It’s a smashing place to live…so from a community perspective, it was only natural and right that Triona and I got involved. Triona is secretary of the Local Tidy Towns and last year I took on the role of Secretary with the Fourmilewater club.
“Getting involved in both the Nire and Fourmilewater is also helping me to recover and come to terms with illness. Success and the value of the club isn’t just about results on the field.” Muiris will share plenty more with me in our second instalment.