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Kilkenny Mourns the Passing of Ducksie

By Mary Morgan Thu 4th Aug

Kilkenny Mourns the Passing of Ducksie
Kilkenny Mourns the Passing of Ducksie


By John Knox, Kilkenny People


THE high achiever whose exciting exploits prompted the

debate in the first place won!t fan the flames of the argument,

nor will he offer much encouragement to those who

would like to discuss the matter.

Yet, one thought the question was a reasonable one,

worth asking, no matter what the response. At least as reasonable

and worthy as when a respected journalist once

asked Kerry manager, Páidi Ó Sé did he have thoughts in

English or Irish.

Okay, one probed, where do you see yourself in the

annals of the game?

We were sitting in his 3-Series BMW outside the

O’Loughlin/Gaels complex. For once, the words didn!t

flow. The head arched. The response imparted by the body

language shouted shock.

A sort of “Crikey, where did this come from!, without

uttering the words. But surely he must have anticipated

the question being asked at some time?

“What people want to make of it all is their business”,

was the most meaty part of the response. “I don!t mind.

How it all shapes up in history doesn!t bother me. I just

looked at things as games to be won, and I liked winning



Michael “Ducksie! Walsh on Michael “Ducksie! Walsh, the

handball legend. A long pause.

A stocktake shows he has won 16 senior singles and 10

doubles All-Ireland titles in the 60 x 30 alley. In the smaller

40 x 20 alley he won seven singles and five doubles title. A

whopping 38 All-Ireland medals in all.

He is the only person ever to have won under-15, 17, 19

and 23 World titles. The World senior eluded him, despite

appearing in two finals and a semi-final.

“It would be nice to be regarded as one of the best”, he

added, reluctantly. “What order people class players in

doesn!t bother me”.

Michael Walsh, hereafter to be known as Ducksie, his

accepted surname in sport, has long since been regarded

among the greats.

The dream match for handball purists would probably

be a softball clash between another legend, Pat Kirby and

Ducksie. Two deadly players in an alley together at their

prime. Wow! The wonders that prompts.

Ducksie against John Joe Gilmartin, who won 24 senior

titles, would be another blockbuster.

Was Ali the best? Was George Best? Was Sean Kelly?

Kilkenny people can, and do, proudly ask, is Ducksie?

This year, at the age of 35, he won his 16th senior single

title in seventeen consecutive appearances.

He loved it. Ducksie bounced back after losing the

opening game 21-2 to win 21-19, 21-14 against Eoin

Kennedy. The Dubliner was thirteen years his junior.


“Eoin is a good player, but the longer the match went

on, the more it suited me”, Ducksie explained. “I was getting

stronger. For me to lose, I would have to be well beaten.

“In the cloe games, my experience had to be an advantage”,

he added.

There was disappointment to follow, however. Ducksie

and his long time partner, Eugene Downey failed, for the

second year running, in the senior double all-Ireland final.

Ten times, a record, the pair have been All-Ireland champions.

“This could be the end of our partnership”, Ducksie

revealed. “I am 35. Eugene is over 40. It would be hard to

come back after losing the two finals”.

Still, he didn!t close the door. If Eugene wants to carry

on, then Ducksie will be his delighted partner. If not,

Ducksie will team up with someone else.

Retiring? He tried to before.He found out quickly that he

couldn!t walk away from the game. He won!t walk now


The last time he thought about going was in 1999. That

was the year he thanked his great friend, and mentor,

Tommy O!Brien for all his help and encourgement over a

long number of years. Mr. O!Brien was asked to accept the

medal at the presentation. It was his to keep.

“I wanted to win that final badly”, Ducksie recalled. “I

wanted to win it for Tommy. I had been thinking of retiring

for a few years, and how I could thank Tommy for his help.

Letting him receive, and keep the medal was the way I did


Easy going

These times he satisfies himself with three or four easy

going games against friends. Come next Spring the pace

will be stepped up. Ducksie will be ready for the defence

of a title that well knows its way to Kilkenny.

“I still have the will, the eagerness for the game”, he

assured. “It is not all about honours, medals, although I

value very one of them. I just like winning, putting myself

up against a good opponent in an alley.

“I was going to go. I had enough of it a few years ago. I

am glad now that I didn!t”.

At that time, the burden of expectations was all but suffocating.

These times, because he is older and people

don!t expect him to be winning, winning, winning, handball

life is more enjoyable.

“The same pressure is not there now because of my

age. I am enjoying the game more. I train as hard. The feeling

is that if I lose, I lose.

“I can!t complain. The game has been good to me. I

have been lucky”.

Regrets? There have been a few.

“I am sorry that I didn!t win a senior singles World

championship”, the self employed cabin maker admitted.

“It won!t happen now. My age would be against me”.

Ducksie, who learned the game in the open alley at the

Waterbarracks, and later at Talbot!s Inch, won his first All-

Ireland as partner with Joe Walsh of Mulllinavat in the

under-12 doubles championship.

Some combination

They were some combination. They won under-12, 14

and 16 doubles championships together, plus three at

minor level.

The trail was upwards all the way from there for one

Michael “Ducksie! Walsh. It was never easy. Getting to, and

then staying at the top meant sacrifices had to be made.

Training, endless hours of long, lonely car trips to get

quality challenge matches filled his life.

And you now what, he would do it all again.

“The game has been great to me”, he conceded. “I

enjoyed every minute of it. I would love to be starting all

over again”.

His dream! A nightmare for those who yearn to be king

of the alley!


Michael “Ducksie” Walsh 1966 – 2016 RIP

38 All-Ireland Senior Titles

16 All-Ireland 60×30 Senior Singles Titles

  • 1st in 1985, his last in 2001. Included an incredible 13 consecutive titles from 1985 – 1997

10 All-Ireland 60×30 Senior Doubles Titles

  •  1st in 1985, his last in 1997. Included 5 consecutive titles from 1987 – 1991

7 All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Singles Titles

  •  1st in 1986, his last in 1998. Included 5 consecutive titles from 1986 – 1991

5 All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Doubles Titles

  •  1st in 1989, his last in 1998

  The death has occurred of Michael “Ducksie” WALSH
Ballyreddin, Bennettsbridge, Kilkenny

Michael passed away after a short illness at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. Deeply regretted by his loving wife Sheena, son Dylan, daughters Megan and Niamh, brothers John, Billy and Jimmy, sisters Vera and Regina, in-laws, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends. May He Rest In Peace Reposing at his home from 5p.m. on Friday with rosary at 8.30p.m. Funeral on Saturday after 1.30p.m. requiem mass in St. Bennett’s Church, Bennettsbridge to Foulkstown cemetery. House private from 12noon on Saturday please.
By Mary Morgan Thu 4th Aug

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