The statue is unveiled at Mooncoin by GAA President Larry McCarthy
Saturday evening last saw Mooncoin GAA Club unveiling a statue to one of their own home-grown heroes - Richard ‘Drug’ Walsh. GAA President Larry McCarthy did the honours, revealing a beautiful and stunning piece art, created by Clare sculptor, Séamus Connolly.
Richard ‘Drug’ Walsh, born in the parish in 1877, was one of the members of Kilkenny’s first golden era team. Along with Sim Walton (Tullaroan), Eddie Doyle (Mooncoin) and Jack Rochford (Threecastles), he was winner of seven All-Ireland hurling medals, all won between 1904 and 1913.
Their record of most All-Ireland medals stood until Christy Ring came along in the 1950s. Drug Walsh also has another claim to fame, a record that is still not broken all these years later. He is still the only man to captain Kilkenny to All-Ireland victory on three occasions (in 1907, 1909 and 1913). He also won three senior county champions with Mooncoin – two as captain. He is also reputed to have been the first person to call publicly for the hurling ball to be coloured white for the convenience of spectators.
He is said to have picked up his famous nickname in primary school when the class were singing the song 'Clare’s Dragoons' - also known as 'the Bould Dragoons' - which was a popular marching song at the time. His friends nicknamed him 'Droog', because of his mispronunciation of the word 'Dragoons'. Obviously they thought it was hilarious the way he was pronouncing it! Like all good nicknames, it stuck for life.
As he got older, his ‘Droog’ nickname morphed into ‘Drug’. He would become known far and wide as simply; ‘The Drug’. If his four letter name was mentioned throughout Ireland in the early part of the 20th century, people would know instantly who was being talked about. It is worth noting however, that on a few occasions, Drug said he had always hated his nickname, but he could do nothing about it now!
And so this brings us to Mooncoin village on Saturday, 9 October 2021, where hundreds of people gathered to witness the unveiling of the Drug Walsh statue at the GAA club’s new entrance on Main Street. It was an unseasonably balmy October afternoon in Mooncoin, with temperatures nearly hitting 20 degrees.
Chairman of Mooncoin GAA club, Tom Murphy, kicked off proceedings at 5pm, welcoming the huge attendance, relatives of Drug Walsh, and the GAA officials present. A special word of thanks was firstly given to the Mooncoin juvenile U8s, U7s and U6s boys and girls, who so brilliantly displayed their skills for everyone as a curtain raiser to the main proceedings.
Australian Supporters club
None of the day’s events would have been possible however, without the Mooncoin GAA Supporters Club of Australia, led by Larry Delahunty, Séamus Delahunty and Bill Kinsella. The club Down-Under generously funded the project in its entirety.
The Chairman also thanked the Drug Walsh Monument Committee in Mooncoin who had so diligently worked the previous three years to get the project to where it is today. The social committee of the club were thanked for the amazing spread that was provided in the GAA Complex.
A special word of gratitude was given to Clare sculptor, Séamus Connolly, who ‘lived and breathed Drug Walsh’ over the previous six months. His attention to detail in producing such an exemplary piece of art is to his credit and will be there for generations of people to see.
The GAA President, Larry McCarthy, spoke of how this statue would now inspire generations of children as they come through the gates of Mooncoin GAA club to play games. He thanked the Australian members of the club, noting how, “no matter how far one travels, even to the other side of the world, your home club is always your home club”. He was impressed by the records Drug achieved over his career, especially his seven All-Ireland’s, although he jokingly noted that beating his native Cork in four of the finals did give him a heavy-heart!
President McCarthy, being so closely associated with New York GAA, told the story about how Drug Walsh became the first ‘Weekender’ to travel to the Big Apple, just to play one game of hurling.
Around 1910, the Kilkenny Club in New York were in the ‘county’ final there. To give them a better chance of victory, Mooncoin native Dick Quinn, who trained the team, sent for Drug to come over and play in the final. Due to bad weather the ship was late arriving and Drug missed the match. He had to turn straight around and go back to Mooncoin on the same ship!
Next to address the crowd was Leinster Chairman, Pat Teehan. Highlighting that the GAA, and indeed Ireland in general, is such a connected family, Pat had his own personal connection to Drug Walsh. Pat’s grandad, Jack Teehan, was the first Offaly man to play on a Leinster hurling team. That team was captained by Drug Walsh and they won the 1908 Railway shield playing side by side. The shield they won is now displayed in Mooncoin GAA club.
The statue was then formally unveiled by Larry McCarthy. Parish priest of Mooncoin, Fr Martin Tobin, then blessed the statue and all who were present, praying; 'may the beautiful scene in this village warm the hearts of all who will look on it'. He also prayed for the 'GAA family' in the village, the family of Drug Walsh, and most poignantly, the man himself; Richard ‘Drug’ Walsh, who passed away in 1958 at the age of 80. In attendance were Drug’s relatives, including his grand-nieces and great-grand nieces and nephews.
Rose of Mooncoin
There followed a beautiful rendition of the ‘Rose of Mooncoin’ by local camogie player, Bríd Hennigan, who was stylishly dressed in black in amber for the day that was in it. The crowd sang along.
Finally, the GAA President and Leinster chairman, were presented with crystal and hampers donated by Blanchfield’s Centra. All of the products included were either grown or made within the four corners of Mooncoin, including eggs, honey, potatoes, beetroot and some baking. The GAA President quipped that it would come in very useful, as he is currently living the “bachelor life” in Dublin as his family are still in America. Nothing would go astray!
And on that note, the gathering retired to the GAA complex where they were looked after by the social committee, who created a stunning selection of sandwiches and desserts for the occasion.
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