The baton has been gathering dust now for over 40 years. Joe Walshe is a long time waiting to pass it on.
He is Tinryland’s last man. The last man to captain the club to a Carlow senior football championship. These things matter. And then four decades whizz by. And the great wait goes on, history forever outshining the present.
All that matters this Sunday is getting over the line, the future finally catching up with the past.
Joe’s two sons, Cormac and Diarmaid, will line out for Tinryland in Sunday’s final against Palatine at Netwatch Cullen Park, 4pm.
“I’d say if you ask them do I talk about 1981 much, they’d probably say I never shut up about it,” laughs the club’s captain of 41 years ago.
“I was involved with the boys in the juvenile set-up for a few years but as they got older they probably didn’t need to be listening to me any longer. No, I don’t bore them with talking about 1981 much, at least I hope I don’t!”
Joe won three county titles with Tinryland – 1975, 1979 and 1981. He played senior until the early 1990s but since ‘81 the club has drifted to the shadows, contesting only two subsequent deciders, losing in 1992 and 2011.
“It’s only when you get to a final again that you look back maybe on the last few years. We have had lean times at senior level for various reasons, injuries, players moving away and also our parish was made smaller too, so it has been a slippery slope. It has been a bit of a famine, really.”
Their opponents in Sunday’s showdown are neighbours, Palatine, a fixture described colourfully by Eamonn Byrne, the club PRO and resident fountain of knowledge historian, as akin to Celtic playing Rangers.
Many of the players would have gone to secondary school together in Carlow town. Indeed, there are even cousins playing on opposing teams; Cian Lawlor for Tinryland and Conor Lawlor for Palatine.
One of Joe Walshe’s first medals was at under-14 level with Bennekerry/Tinryland – an underage combination of players who at adult level progress to play with either Palatine or Tinryland.
Palatine have enjoyed more recent senior success than their neighbours, winning titles in 2006, 2015 and 2016. They also lost finals in 2018 and 2019.
Sunday will be the first time the clubs have met in a county senior football decider since 1950. The Carlow Nationalist newspaper report of that game, which Tinryland won 1-5 to 1-3, paints the encounter as quite a splendid affair.
“It was one of the most courageous games I have ever seen – it was also one of the best,” ventures the Carlow Nationalist reporter. “Apart from the result, we must thank Tinryland and Palatine for providing such an epicurean feast of football fare.”
The newspaper report, from October 1950, goes on to describe the kicking as “accurate and lengthy”, while praising the players for throwing themselves around with abandon.
“With no thought to personal safety players, young and old, light and heavy, threw themselves into the thick of it. And – it’s also the case with good hurling – there were no serious injuries.
“Though blood was ‘up’, tempers were kept submerged with the aid of the firm, impartial hand of the referee, Luke Kelly.”
Whatever about their blood being up, Tinryland would certainly settle for the same result this Sunday.
Since Tinryland’s 1981 triumph, Éire Óg have been the dominant force in Carlow football. During the 90s they also claimed five Leinster club titles, while O’Hanrahan’s brief spell in that rarefied air also saw them claim a provincial club crown in 2000. Rathvilly won last year’s Carlow SFC, denying Éire Óg five-in-a-row.
Éire Óg were eliminated at the quarter-final stages by Rathvilly this season. Palatine then defeated Rathvilly in the semis, throwing the race wide open. Not that Tinryland’s semi-final win over Mount Leinster Rangers was exactly textbook stuff, they failed to score during the entire first half, trailing 0-3 to no score at the turnaround.
However, the introduction of 2018 All-Star nominee Paul Broderick turned the game. The former Carlow forward scored 1-3 and his surging run forward created a second goal as Tinryland battled out a 2-5 to 0-6 victory.
Another former Carlow player, Shane Redmond, is the current Tinryland captain and the man Walshe hopes to pass the baton to on Sunday evening.
“It would be huge for us as a club if we were to finally win another county title,” says Walshe. “Obviously, on a personal level it would be great for the family but more importantly for the parish and people who have given so much to the club over the years, it would just mean everything.
“It has been great to see the flags and colours going up around the area, even some houses where there might be no connection with the club, flags are out. After all the tough years, it is great to be back in a final.”
It might just be time to start dusting down that baton.