Now a sprightly 85, David John Walsh was a centre-forward for, among others, Linfield, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. A dual international he played for both sides of the Irish divide – 11 times for the North and 20 for the South, most famously in 1949 when he was a member of the Republic side that defeated England 2-0 at Goodison Park; the first team to beat soccer’s aristocrats on home soil; a feat he humbly describes as “no big deal.”
Nimble and decisive with a poacher’s instinct, Dave – who did his Leaving cert at Mount Sion CBS and played hurling and Gaelic football – started out in local youth football, playing for the Corinthians, St Josephs, Shelbourne and Glen Rovers clubs.
He was originally an outside-right but was moved up front and instantly scored eight goals in an FAI Junior Cup tie against Faithlegg. A Limerick United player was there and persuaded him to move to Shannonside.
After a spell with Shels of Dublin on loan in 1943 he made the switch north to sign for Linfield, helping them to back-to-back Irish Cups in 1945-’46.
Though he “never dreamt of being a professional footballer”, that May, having scored an astonishing 75 goals the previous season, he joined West Brom for £3,500 and scored eight times in his first six league games. He notched 100 goals for the Baggies (doubling as team trainer) before moving to nearby Aston Villa for £23,750 in late 1950. Sheffield Wednesday bid a then-record £25,000 but he didn’t want to move house.
He scored 40 goals in 114 Villa appearances – including a run of eight in as many games in 1953 – before moving to Walsall in 1955. After one season there he joined Worcester City where he hung up his boots in May ’57. In all he scored 137 times in 293 English league games.
He scored twice on his debut for the North, and seven in total. Together with Con Martin (the only other surviving member of the team that defeated England, and a former Waterford FC player-manager who is already a ‘Hall of Famer’) he was one of seven players born in the Irish Free State who helped the IFA XI finish runners-up in the 1947 British Home Championship.
He made 20 appearances and scored five goals for the FAI side, including two in a 3-2 win against Spain in 1947 – both goals set up by Paddy Coad.
After retiring he ran a sports shop and general store in Droitwich, and later holiday homes in Thurlestone and Kingsbridge in Devon, where he lives with his wife of 56 years, Eileen. Thanks to coaching he received from Pat and Michael O’Sullivan, Tramore, he plays golf off a handicap of five.
In June 2003, he and other notable Waterford footballers were honoured by the City Council. Dave was introduced to the crowd in Croke Park at half-time during the Cyprus game last October.
Davy in his Irish jersey and (left) in 1998
| Photos courtesy of Leo Murphy