Coiste Chontae an Dúin and the family that is Down GAA are saddened to learn today of the death of one of our favourite sons, Dr Martin Walsh. Martin was a man who gave outstanding service to Down over many decades, he was a man who made a difference to the lives of many in his professional life and in the sporting world where he used his expertise to the benefit of Club, School, and County players not just in Down but throughout the Country.
Martin was a trusted confidant to many players who sought his advice and guidance, he helped prolong the playing careers of many and he was for us in Down GAA a man that we were very proud to say was one of our own. For over six decades where Red and Black was worn, Martin Walsh was there, advising, guiding, treating and most importantly, in his own gentle manner, caring for those that he came into contact with. He was a gentleman and a man who was innovative in the world of Sports Medicine in Ireland, and he will always have a special niche in the history of Down GAA.
Martin’s involvement in Gaelic Games came first when he went to St Colmans College as a Boarder in 1941, a native of Banbridge there was no GAA activity in his home town at that time. Inspired by Fr McGovern and former County player Dr Jim Fitzsimmons, the young student excelled at Gaelic Football and with a strength in athletics, he progressed to captain St Colmans to a first Mac Rory Cup Final in 1945, where they alas, lost to St Pats Armagh for whom the late great Iggy Jones would score 3-5 on that day. Later that year Martin would star alongside Iggy Jones on the Ulster Colleges Team in the Inter PRO series of 1945 and 46.
Martin was left full forward on the Down Junior Team beaten by Kerry in the All-Ireland Junior Final of 1949 and would make his Senior Championship debut for Down in 1952 when Down went under to Cavan in a game played in St Patricks Park and remarkably whilst studying at QUB, Martin had in fact played in seven Sigerson Cup competitions.
Having qualified as a Doctor, Martin came to practice in Newcastle and with a great interest in Sports Medicine, he soon came to the attention of the late Maurice Hayes and soon was persuaded to join the Team Management in 1959. It is a remarkable fact that with every Down Football Team that won an All-Ireland Title bar 1946 when he was still at school, Martin Walsh played a key role either as a selector or as a Team Doctor, with the Senior Team in 1960,61,68,91 and 94, with the Under 21 Team of 1979 and with the Minor Winning Teams of 1977,87,99 and 2005. Martin was a constant presence, a support for Players, Team Management, County Board and in many cases for parents and family members.
Martin sought no limelight; he rarely spoke in public of his work or even in dressing rooms, his work was done quietly. In 2005 as the Minor Footballers took on Galway in an All-Ireland Quarter Final in Carrick on Shannon and the backs were to the wall at half time, Martin asked Team Management if he could say a few words, those few words were delivered calmly and yet with determination and a belief in a group of young men in the Red and Black.
History shows Down went on to win the game and to win the All-Ireland. Martin Walsh had spoken, and people had listened, he had the great capacity to transcend generations and to be that trusted friend to Down players from the 1950s right through to the recent years.
We in Down were so lucky to have Dr Martin Walsh in our ranks, he gave of his time without question and with the great support of his late beloved wife Roisin and his family and we think here too of his son Peter who died so suddenly and who too had worn the Red and Black of Down. For Dr Walsh reward was seeing Down, St Colmans College, QUB or Bryansford triumph, he sought no fame nor glory and in 2009 we in Down GAA acknowledged his outstanding contribution and inducted Martin into the Down GAA Hall Of Fame.
Martin was also a man of great faith and had a wonderful singing voice and we recall also when Martin sang at the GAA Congress Mass in Newcastle in 2010 and many were moved by his rendition of Panis Angelicus. It was a very special moment on a weekend where the world of the GAA acknowledged the Down history makers of 1960 and 61.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his daughter Roisin, his sons Paul, Brian, Mark, John, his grandchildren, great grandchildren, the entire Walsh and McNamara family circle and the Gaels of Bryansford and Clann na Banna. We remember too at this time his late wife Roisin and sons Peter, Gerard, and Martin.
Today Down GAA is a poorer place with the loss of a Dr Martin Walsh and yet we were privileged to have had him amongst our ranks, to have shared many great times with him and just to have known the man and all that he was, for Martin was truly a man who made a difference to the lives of so many. For that we say Thank you – Ar dheis De go Raibh a anam.