|Irish name||Pádraig Oilibhéar Breathnach|
13 July 1937|
Thomastown, County Kilkenny
|Died||9 March 1996(aged 58)|
|Height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Leinster titles||10 (1 as sub)|
|All-Irelands||5 (1 as sub)|
Patrick Oliver Walsh (13 July 1937 – 9 March 1996), better known as Ollie Walsh, was an Irish sportsperson. He played hurling with the Kilkenny senior inter-county team from 1956 until 1972 and subsequently served as manager of the team from 1990 until 1995. Walsh is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time.
Walsh was also the recipient of various awards and honours off the field. In 1967 he earned the Texaco Hurler of the Year award, becoming the first goalkeeper to win the title. He also won two consecutive Poc Fada titles in 1962 and 1963 and was considered unlucky not to be named on either the GAA Hurling Team of the Century or the GAA Hurling Team of the Millennium.
As a manager Walsh had much success with his own native county. Between 1990 and 1995 he guided Kilkenny to back-to-back All-Ireland titles, three Leinster titles and a National Hurling League title.
Walsh played his club hurling with his local club in Thomastown. He had much success at underage levels, beginning in 1947, 1949 and 1951 when he won three Kilkenny Under-14 Hurling Championship medals. Walsh's success continued at under-16 level when he won three back-to-back county titles in 1951, 1952 and 1953. He later won a minor county medal in 1954 before winning a junior county title in 1962. Walsh never won a senior county championship in hurling; however, he won a Kilkenny Senior Football Championship title in football with Graiguenamanagh in 1956.
Walsh's hurling skills quickly brought him to the attention of the Kilkenny inter-county selectors and he soon joined the county minor panel. He won a Leinster winners' medal in this grade in 1955; however, an All-Ireland medal at this level eluded him as Kilkenny were later defeated by Galway in the championship semi-final.
Walsh made his debut in the senior Leinster Championship in 1956 and claimed his first provincial medal in 1957. This was subsequently converted into his first All-Ireland medal following a win over Waterford in the final. In 1958 Walsh won a second Leinster title; however, Kilkenny were later defeated by Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. A third consecutive provincial medal was claimed in 1959; however, Walsh ended up on the losing side in the All-Ireland final as Waterford won. In this era, he regarded Jim 'Link' Walsh of Dunamaggin as his great protector, who gave him cover as Kilkenny's full-back when forwards bore down on his goal.
The following year Walsh won his fourth senior Leinster title following a comfortable victory over Dublin. This victory allowed Kilkenny to advance directly into the All-Ireland final where, for the third successive occasion, their opponents turned out to be Waterford. This was the second All-Ireland final to be broadcast live on Telefís Éireann, allowing more viewers to see Eddie Keher's scoring ability. In the game itself he scored a record 14 points, ten of which came from frees, giving the Kilkenny men a 4–17 to 6–8 victory over Waterford. It was Walsh's second All-Ireland medal.
In 1964 Walsh won a fifth Leinster title following another win over Dublin. Local rivals Tipperary later provided the opposition in the All-Ireland final; however, Kilkenny were the favourites to retain the title. Jimmy Doyle had other ideas, however, as he scored 10 points and set up Seán McLoughlin for a goal. Tipperary's fourteen-point winning margin, 5–13 to 2–8, was the biggest All-Ireland final win since Tipperary had overwhelmed Laois in the 1949 decider. It was the second time that Walsh had lost an All-Ireland final.
Kilkenny lost their provincial crown in 1965; however, Kilkenny bounced back in 1966 with Walsh collecting a second National League medal and a sixth Leinster title. This victory allowed Kilkenny to advance directly to the All-Ireland final where Cork provided the opposition. It was the first meeting of these two sides since 1947 and Kilkenny were firm favourites. In spite of this, two goals by Colm Sheehan and a third from John O'Halloran gave Cork a 3–9 to 1–10 victory over Kilkenny. It was his third All-Ireland loss in less than a decade.
The following year Kilkenny continued their provincial dominance with Walsh picking up a seventh Leinster title before lining out in yet another All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Tipperary were Kilkenny's opponents on the day; however, by this stage Tipp's pool of players was ageing and the county's hurling fortunes were in decline. Kilkenny proved more than a match for the Munster champions. Goals from Paddy Moran, Martin Brennan and Tom Walsh laid to rest a bogey that Tipperary had over Kilkenny since 1922. Walsh had collected a third All-Ireland winners' medal.
Wexford put an end to Kilkenny's hopes of retaining the title in 1968; however, they bounced back the following year with Keher, who was now captain of the side, collecting an eighth Leinster medal. Cork faced Kilkenny in the subsequent All-Ireland final. For a while it looked as if Cork would triumph once again; however, five points from Kilkenny in the last seven minutes gave Walsh a fourth All-Ireland winners' medal.
1971 saw Walsh capture a ninth and final provincial winners' medal as Kilkenny began to assert their dominance over Wexford. The Leinster champions later played Tipperary in the only eighty-minute final. The game has gone down in All-Ireland final folklore for a number of reasons. As the first All-Ireland final to be broadcast by RTÉ in colour, the nation saw Eddie Keher score 2 goals and 11 points and still end up on the losing side. Kilkenny's goalkeeper, however, had a poor game in which he conceded five goals, one of which passed through his legs, while that year's Hurler of the Year, Michael 'Babs' Keating, played out the closing stages of the game in his bare feet. Ultimately Tipperary emerged the victors on a score line of 5–17 to 5–14. This was Walsh's last championship appearance with Kilkenny. In 1972 his first cousin, Noel Skehan, finally took over as the first-choice goalkeeper after eight years as understudy; however, Walsh remained on as a substitute. In doing son he won his tenth Leinster medal and his fifth All-Ireland medal from the substitutes bench. He retired from inter-county activity shortly after.
Walsh was also a regular player with the Leinster hurling team in the Railway Cup inter-provincial competition. He first lined out with his province in 1957; however, Munster dominated the competition at this stage. It would be 1962, however, before Walsh won his first Railway Cup title. Further honours would come his way in 1964, 1965 and 1967, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977.
In the 1980s Walsh turned his hand to club and inter-county management. He coached the Kilkenny junior hurling team to All-Ireland titles in 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990. At the same time Walsh coached the Kilkenny intermediate team to provincial successes in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990.
In October 1990 Walsh was appointed manager of the Kilkenny senior inter-county team. His appointment was one that quickly bore fruit in the early part of the decade.
In 1991 Walsh led Kilkenny in his first championship campaign as manager. Dublin provided the opposition on the occasion of the Leinster final; however, the men from the capital proved to be no pushovers. With seconds left in the game 'the Dubs' were winning by a single point; however, a last-gasp goal sealed a 1–11 to 0–13 victory for 'the Cats'. It was Walsh's first Leinster title as manager; however, had his side been defeated by Dublin it may have meant the end of his managerial career. Another win over Antrim in similar circumstances set up an All-Ireland final meeting with Tipperary, their first championship encounter in twenty years. The opening thirty-five minutes saw both sides trade score-for-score; however, a controversial 20-metre free, miss-hit by Michael Cleary, landed in the net and gave Tipp a lead which they never surrendered. The final score of 1–16 to 0–15 resulted in a loss for Walsh's Kilkenny.
Walsh remained at the help as Kilkenny bounced back from the All-Ireland defeat and collected a second Leinster medal following a comprehensive 3–16 to 2–9 defeat of Wexford in 1992. The subsequent All-Ireland final saw 'the Cats' take on Cork for the first time in nearly a decade. The game was well balanced for the first-half; however, D.J. Carey scored a goal four minutes before the break. This seemed to give Kilkenny the impetus to go on and win the game. Two more goals by John Power and Michael Phelan in the second-half secured a win for Kilkenny and a first All-Ireland win for Walsh as manager.
In 1993 Kilkenny were still on top of the hurling world and Walsh guided his county to a third consecutive Leinster title after a draw and a replay with Wexford. A third successive All-Ireland final appearance beckoned as 'the Cats' faced Galway for the first time since 1987. Galway won on that occasion; however, in 1993 they were lagging behind Kilkenny for much of the game. They went a point ahead coming into the last quarter; however, Kilkenny won the match by five points, giving Walsh a second consecutive All-Ireland victory as manager.
In 1994 Kilkenny were aiming for a third All-Ireland in-a-row; however, the team fell at the first hurdle in the provincial championship. In spite of this defeat Walsh was retained as manager
In 1995 it looked as if Kilkenny's hurling fortunes were turning. At the start of the year Walsh's team annexed the National League title as Kilkenny defeated Clare to take the cup. In spite of this victory 1995 proved to be an unhappy year for Walsh as Kilkenny were trounced by Offaly in the Leinster final. Walsh resigned as manager shortly after this defeat.
Ollie Walsh died suddenly on 9 March 1996. His large funeral bore testimony to his stature in the game, with attendance from former opponents from Cork, Tipperary, Wexford and further afield.
- All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship:
- Leinster Senior Hurling Championship:
- Winner (9): 1957, 1958, 1959, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971
- Runner-up (4): 1960, 1962, 1965, 1970
- National Hurling League:
- Winner (2): 1961–1962, 1965–66
- Runner-up (1): 1966–1967
- All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship:
- Winner (0):
- Runner-up (1): 1955
- Leinster Minor Hurling Championship:
- Winner (1): 1955
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| Texaco Hurler of the Year
| Kilkenny Senior Hurling Manager
Michael 'Babs' Keating
| All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final