FORMER star goalkeeper, Michael Walsh has stepped down as manager of the Kilkenny under-21 hurling team.
The Dicksboro man was appointed in 2008 when he guided the team to a thrilling All-Ireland success over Tipperary which completed the Grand Slam of senior, minor, intermediate and under-21 titles for the county.
The following year the Cats went within an ace of retaining the title, but were beaten by a last minute point by Clare in the All-Ireland final.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Kilkenny,” he told the ’People last night when he confirmed the news of his departure. “The whole thing was a brilliant experience.
“We lost just three matches in four years, two of them by a point. That is sport. There is little between winning and losing. You take the good with the bad. I leave with terrific memories that will remain with me forever.”
He said that while the main goal in Kilkenny was to win titles, there was always the underlying imperative when working with under-age teams to drive things on for the county.
He was satisfied he did that. It was with some satisfaction that he noted that nine players he worked with in the past featured on September’s senior All-Ireland winning panel.
“The hunger among young players to play with Kilkenny is unbelievable,” Mr Walsh continued. “There is real pride there, and it is driven by parents and clubs.
“The under-21 grade can be difficult at times with lots of demands on players, but I never got anything less than 100% co-operation from everyone. I thank people for that.”
He said that the experience of the All-Ireland success of 2008 was fantastic. The excitement of it all brought him back to the best times during his own career.
“Winning is a great, great experience,” he insisted. “It can lift everyone. Kilkenny players have a winning mentality and that, plus the commitment to the game at all levels, will ensure that the county reamins successful long into the future.”
County Board secretary, Ned Quinn, said the passion and enthusiasm Mr Walsh brought to the job were infectious and he was sure the players appreciated what he did for them.
“He leaves knowing he made a huge contribution,” Mr Quinn added. “He has helped shape some of the next generation of Kilkenny seniors. From a County Board point of view, Michael Walsh was a dream to work with. No one could bring a greater commitment to any job.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that James Stephens centre-back, Jackie Tyrrell, was shown a straight red card when dismissed during Sunday’s senior final victory over Ballyhale Shamrocks. He was shown a yellow card when booked in the 22nd minute, but was sent off on a straight red in the 35th minute.
A straight red card carries a minimum of one month suspesension, which means the former All-Star will miss Sunday’s Leinster club championship clash against Oulart-the-Ballagh (Wexford) in Nowlan Park (2.30pm).
The curtain-raiser at the ’Park will be the Leinster club intermediate semi-final between Kileknny champions, Danesfort and Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow). The Noresiders are flying All-Star, Richie Hogan, home early from Haiti for the game.
Hogan is a volunteer in the Haven for Haiti Build It Week, but his club will fly him home on Saturday. His brother, Paddy will miss the tie after being sent off in the county final.