James Walsh is FAI International Junior Player of the Year 2004
It was not all doom and gloom for Tipperary soccer at the weekend while there was disappointment for TS & DL representatives Rosegreen Rangers and Peake Villa in the Statoil sponsored FAI Junior Cup as both bowed out in the last sixteen there was still two major honours bestowed on this league over the weekend.
The main one was at the Eircom FAI International Player of the Year Awards televised gala event at City West Hotel in Dublin on Sunday night where Cashel born James Walsh of St. Michael’s became only the second player from Co. Tipperary to receive the highest honour for a junior soccer player in the Republic of Ireland when he was presented with the Football Association of Ireland International Junior Player of the Year for 2004.
James accompanied by his family and officers of the Tipperary Southern & District League and St. Michael’s beat off the challenge of experienced campaigners Barry Flynn of Portmarnock and Keith Bruen of Ballymun United and follows Cyril Conran of Clonmel Town a winner in 1993 into soccer folklore in Ireland.
James who commenced his soccer career with Cashel Town schoolboys before joining his brother John at St. Michael’s of Tipperary town as a 16 year old had to overcome three serious leg injuries to go on and win the FAI Youth Cup in 1993 and 1994 and Munster Youth Cup in 1991. He was also a FAI Oscar Traynor Trophy winner in 2003 and a Munster Junior Cup winner in 2001 and 2005. He holds runners-up medals in the FAI Junior Cup in 2000 and 2002 and FAI Oscar Traynor Trophy runners-up medals in 2000 and 2002.
Those injuries no doubt cost James a professional career that would have seen him wear the Irish jersey at senior level as the first one happened when he was on trials as a schoolboy at English Nationwide side Gillingham FC. However he overcame that disappointment and almost ten years to the day he broke the same leg again. But James is a resilient and dedicated to sport and in 2001 he came to the attention of Irish Junior manager Gerry Smith following outstanding displays both for club and league.
As a result he was called up to play for his country and was capped at junior level. James said, ‘That apart from this season exploits joining his St. Michael’s teammates Kevin O’Sullivan, Davy Ryan and Paul Tobin for the UEFA Regions Cup qualifiers in the Czech Republic in 2003 was a major highlight’. He was also a winner of the annual Quadrangular International in Scotland in a round-robin tournament with the hosts, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man.
2004 was a major breakthrough not only for James but both his club and the league when he was selected once again to play for his country in the UEFA Regions Cup qualifiers in Bosnia last November. However, this time around manager Smith opted for players from the Leinster and Munster Senior Leagues rather than picking a junior team, so it was an honour to play for the inaugural Rep of Ireland Amateur team that had only six junior players in a squad of eighteen.
Once again James showed his class in these round-robin qualifiers and although playing at Centre-half he was top scorer with a goal against San Marino and two against England that helped Ireland qualify for the finals in Poland this summer. Those performances were instrumental in James winning this major honour and if he can avoid further injuries he will continue to keep soccer in Co. Tipperary on the map for years to come.
Although employed in Dublin as an IT Consultant with Colgate-Palmolive, 28 year old James still prefers to play with St. Michael’s and travels down every weekend for games even though a number of the top Dublin clubs are interested in his services.
TS & DL Hon Treasurer Richard Power wins Cidona Sports Executive Award
Another major accolade bestowed on the TS & DL happened last Saturday night in the Clonmel Arms Hotel when one of the league’s longest serving officers and founder member Richard Power received the Cidona Sean Lyons Sports Executive Award 2004 for his dedication and service to sport in the county since 1977.
So while there might have been disappointment on the field there was jubilation of it for the TS &DL off it and well done to both who in their own extraordinary way have continued to keep this league as one of the best in Ireland.