DUXIE – LEGEND!
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”,
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
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.
They were some combination. They won under-12, 14
and 16 doubles championships together, plus three at
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
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.|