The James Stephens GAA club and the Village community were devastated on Sunday when the news spread of Billy Walton’s sad and untimely passing at his home on the city’s Kells Road. He fought his battle against serious illness with humour, optimism and determination e and demonstrated his courage in the face of adversity. The 51-year-old was a wonderful family man. One of his greatest days occurred in October 2011 when his son David won a county senior hurling medal with James Stephens to become the third generation Walton winner, following in the footsteps of his father Tom with Tullaroan in 1948 and Billy with James Stephens in 1981.
Billy had a hugely successful and lengthy hurling career, beginning with a schools title with St. Patrick’s in 1972, coached by current county chairman Paul Kinsella. He hurled with distinction in St. Kieran’s College and graduated to the county minor hurling team as goalkeeper aged 17 in 1978. He quickly joined a very successful James Stephens senior side while still a minor. He played in the All Ireland U-21 hurling final in 1981 against Tipperary and won his county senior medal with the Village in the same year. In 1982 he struck gold three times, first winning an All Ireland club title on his 21st birthday against Mount Sion. Within a short time he won a National hurling league medal with Kilkenny seniors and capped it all with an All Ireland senior hurling medal on a Brian Cody led Kilkenny team. Billy continued to shine for James Stephens as a stylish, skilful and free scoring hurler for many years, ending his career where it began as the goalkeeper on the junior team. For over 20 he acted as selector and manager of a host of underage and adult teams, including the National Feile winning side of 2003. In 2001 he became the Juvenile Coaching Officer and supervised the transformation of the club coaching programme with great success. But it will be for his extraordinary work on the development of the Kells Road site that Billy will be most remembered. He gave so generously of his time and expertise in matters agricultural. He contributed hugely to the safety of the site by changing the profile of his own property. Billy cajoled a wide range of specialists and experts to assist in the project. His painstaking attention to detail kept everybody focused and ensured the highest quality control and finish. A week before his passing, he organised the purchase and spreading of fertiliser from his ‘corporate box’, his bedroom that overlooks the development of which he was so proud. Billy accomplished so much in his short time among us and the manner in which he faced his greatest challenge has been inspirational to all. He is survived by his wife Nuala, children David, Michelle, Fionnuala, Caroline and Tommy, his mother Breda, brothers, sisters, family and a very wide circle of friends. MT