Noel Walsh

Noel Walsh (Christmas 1935 – 29 April 2020) was an Irish Gaelic footballer, administrator, selector, manager and member of the Defence Forces. As a selector and manager, he worked with the Clare county team. As a provincial administrator he was pivotal in establishing an open draw in the Munster Senior Football Championship. As a national administrator he was pivotal in the overturning of the Gaelic Athletic Association's Rule 42, the introduction of the All-Ireland Qualifiers and the spread of floodlights to club and county grounds. At his death he was remembered locally and nationally as one of the sport's most progressive administrators.[1][2][3][4] He was often referred to as "Mr Clare Football".[5]

Noel Walsh
Native name
Nollaig Breathnach
Birth nameNoel Walsh
Born(1935-12-29)29 December 1935
Milltown Malbay, Clare, Ireland
Died29 April 2020(2020-04-29) (aged 84)
Ennis General Hospital
Allegiance         Clare
Years of service19??–19??
RankIreland-Army-OF-4.svg Ireland-Army-OF-4 camo.svg Lieutenant colonel (OF-4)
Battles/warsMunster Council: until 1990
Presidency of the Gaelic Athletic Association: 1999, 2002

Early lifeEdit

The sixth President of Ireland Patrick Hillery delivered Walsh at Christmas 1935, upstairs in the family-owned pub.[6] Hillery was 12 years of age at the time. Walsh played golf as a young man, had membership of Spanish Point and Lahinch Golf Clubs and qualified for the South of Ireland championship several times, while during the 1960s, he won a President's Prize at Lahinch Golf Club.[1] Though he moved to Limerick, he still held his allegiance to Clare.[1]


He was part of the Defence Forces, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.[7][8]


Walsh played for the Milltown Malbay club.[9] With them he twice won the Clare Senior Football Championship, in 1953 and 1959.[6][9] He played for the Clare county team at minor and junior grades.[9]


Walsh spent twenty years as a selector for the Clare football team at senior level.[9] One of these years was 1992, when Clare won the Munster Senior Football Championship.[9] It was the first time since 1935 (and still the last time when Walsh died) that the duopoly of CorkKerry had been broken.[6][5] Walsh had been responsible for bringing the winning manager John Maughan to Clare.[5] He was a Clare selector at all football grades.[1]

Walsh was also a selector for the Munster football team.[1]


Walsh also managed the Clare football team at senior level for three terms.[9]


Walsh was secretary and chairman of his club Milltown Malbay.[9] He was also chairman of Clare Bórd na bPáirc.[9] Walsh spent eight years as Clare's County Board delegate to the Munster Council.[9]

He served as vice-chairman of the Munster Council from 1992 and became chairman of the Munster Council in 1995, after Tom Boland.[9] Walsh was chairman of the Munster Council until March 1998.[9] He presented the Munster Cup to Anthony Daly when Clare won the Munster Senior Hurling Championship for the first time in 63 years in 1995.[1]

Walsh advocated an open draw for the Munster Senior Football Championship (Cork and Kerry tended to be seeded).[5] He persevered with this, even when set back by opposition to the idea.[1] He was eventually successful.[1][5] This was in 1990, two years before Clare broke the duopoly, Limerick having had the first attempt in a narrow loss to Kerry in the 1991 Munster Senior Football Championship Final.[4][10]

Walsh was chairman of several committees, including the Coaching and Games Development Committee, the Provincial Football Development Committee and the Amateur Status Committee.[9] He was a member of various workgroups, including the Disciplinary Rules Workgroup, the Féile Peil na nÓg Workgroup and the Railway Cup Workgroup.[9] He spent three years as a member of the Management Committee and Central Council.[9] His chairing of the Football Development Committee led to the introduction of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.[4]

Other work included the introduction of floodlights to GAA stadiums and advocacy on the part of the Railway Cup.[7] When chairman of the Munster Council, Walsh had a pilot project for floodlights at Tralee's Austin Stack Park which "became a template for every county and club ground in the country".[10]

Joe McDonagh, when GAA president, appointed Walsh as chairman of the National Football Development Committee.[9] Walsh himself twice ran for the presidency and was elected a GAA trustee in 2000.[4][5] Seán McCague beat him into third place in the presidential election of 1999.[7] Walsh then lost to Seán Kelly in the presidential election of 2002.[4]

Walsh wanted Croke Park opened up to other sports.[2] Walsh credited the original motion to Tom Kenoy of Roscommon but took up the task himself when the motion lost by two-thirds of one vote — 176 to 89.[10] Rule 42 was eventually amended at the 2005 GAA Congress to permit the opening of Croke Park.[2] Walsh via his club brought a motion to the 2015 GAA Congress asking for all county grounds to be opened to other sports.[2] This time he did not succeed.[2] However, Walsh's motion later helped justify holding a tribute association football match to Liam Miller at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.[7]


He died at Ennis General Hospital on 29 April 2020.[1][3][9] He was 84 years of age.[5] The cause was pneumonia resulting from COVID-19.[2][4][11] He was survived by his wife Ursula, two daughters, a son and three grandchildren.[1][2][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hayes, Seamus (29 April 2020). "One of the GAA's most progressive officials – Miltown's Noel Walsh dies". Clare Echo. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Cormican, Eoghan (30 April 2020). "Tributes paid to 'most progressive man to ever hold senior office in the GAA'". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 30 April 2020. The 84-year old Miltown-Malbay native passed away following a Covid-19 related illness.
  3. ^ a b "Walsh Remembered As Progressive GAA Administrator". Clare FM. 30 April 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Moran, Seán (29 April 2020). "Tributes paid to Clare GAA stalwart Noel Walsh after his death from Covid-19: The former army colonel was widely respected as one of the GAA's most influential reformers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Respected GAA official Noel Walsh, dies aged 84". RTÉ Sport. 29 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Crowe, Dermot (3 May 2020). "'He was funny, philosophical, big-hearted and lacking in spite'". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Barry, Stephen (29 April 2020). "Champion of Clare football Noel Walsh has died". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  8. ^ Farrell, Sean (29 April 2020). "Tributes paid after death of former Clare manager and chairman Noel Walsh". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Clare's Noel Walsh passes away". Hogan Stand. 29 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  10. ^ a b c O Muircheartaigh, Joe (2 May 2020). "Noel Walsh: Farewell to a driver of change and fairness". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  11. ^ Fogarty, John (1 May 2020). "Poc Fada may help ease longing for GAA, says Donnelly". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 1 May 2020. Meanwhile, [Martin] Donnelly has effusively praised his friend and fellow West Clare man Noel Walsh, who passed away from Covid-19 related issues earlier this week.
  12. ^ "Death Notice of Noel Walsh". 29 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.