“I’ll be 97 next March if God spares me the health, but at the moment I am 96 and a half… and the half is woeful important,” he roared laughing.
I could be in no better company than the terrifically entertaining and informed doyen of wonderful, Tullaroan Dick Walsh (pictured), or as he is endearingly referred to, ‘Church’.
“Didn’t Tipp pelt Cork around Croke Park,” he fired on my arrival. “I have been to All-Ireland finals and Munster finals since 1930, and I have never saw a worse Cork team, and that’s a fact me man.
“My gosh, I saw big, strong and powerful Corkmen pelted out the gate, a thing I thought was not possible, not with Cork anyway.”
We are together to talk about you know what.....Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final. Dick attended his first All-Ireland hurling final in 1931.
“My father was gone to Dublin on the Saturday evening with Lory Meagher and Master Brennan, our schoolmaster,” he recalled as if it were only yesterday.
“My mother was after getting a new bike, a high Nellie, and I got around her to give me a loan of the bike to get into the Railway Station in Kilkenny. I was too small to get up on the saddle, so I went in and out on the pedals.
“I think I got up and back from Dublin for a shilling (12 old pennies). This was the second day against Cork. ‘Twas a tanner (six old, very old pennies) for young lads to get in.”
The past. We momentarily tear off at a tangent at the mention of Croke Park.
“My uncle Chris gave me the ticket he used to get into Croke Park on Bloody Sunday,” he revealed. “He was an Adjutant in the West Dublin Brigade IRB. He was a terrible smart man. Where was I before I interrupted myself.”
We are in Croke Park, I guided.
Do you remember much of it we wondeered?
“I can,” he assured. “I remember plenty of the Cork team like Eudie Coughlan, Jim Hurley, Jim Regan and there was a Paddy Dulea, and two Barrys’ on the full forward line.”
And the Kilkenny lads that readily come to mind?
“There was Lory Meagher and we had Paddy Phelan, little Paddy Larkin and a brother of his, Fleep. They were two of the hardiest men that ever laced a boot. Peter O’Reilly was there and the Byrnes’, Podge and Eddie were on our team.
“They were all great heroes of us young lads. I would have to say that hurling was not the great crowd-puller we seem to think it was.
“But the three games in 1931 caught the public imagination, and the appeal of the game took off. Our other man, Martin White was on as was Mattie Power and Jack Duggan.”
Dick knocked around hurling people all his life. He made the Tullaroan team in 1937 in the company of Meagher and Martin White.
“I’m the last man alive that played with Martin White,” he told me.
We could fill pages talking about Dick’s time, but space is our master. He would have memories of meeting Tipperary giants like Johnny and Paddy Leahy (Boherlahan). He would have great memories of the Doyles’, Pat Stakelum, Devanney and the Kennys.
“Jimmy Doyle came up to see me last week with two great gentlemen, Murty Kennedy and Martin Coogan,” he informed proudly. “We had a great evening.”
Sure I had nearly forgotten, such was the invigorating chat we were having. How do you see thhis final going, another clash between Titans?
“Tipp will be tough, but we have a marvellous team. If Tipp strike another day like the last day they will pose plenty of questions to our lads.
“But Kilkenny in Croke Park on All-Ireland day are a different team from anyone else. We still have the best hurling team that I have ever seen. They got a great test of men against Limerick, and that will do them no harm, only all the good it will do. We will win, no doubt.”