By Randal Scally
Martin Walsh is one of Offaly’s long-serving and most respected hurling referees. He is also one of the life presidents of Birr GAA, having served the famous south Offaly club in a variety of capacities over the years.
Affectionately known as ‘Dinger’, the Kilcormac native first took up the whistle in 1975 and is still going strong 46 years later. He continues to enjoy refereeing and wants to keep doing it until at least his 70th birthday, which is just over two years away.
“That’s the aim anyway. Noel Cooney is still reffing away at 74 or 75, but if I can get to 70, I’ll be happy. I wouldn’t have done it this long if I didn’t enjoy it,” he says.
IT HAPPENED BY ACCIDENT
Refereeing happened more by accident than design for Martin who has been living in Birr since 1973. He recalls: “I was out for a walk with my wife Ursula one day when I decided to pop into St Brendan’s Park to see if there was a game on. There were two teams – Seir Kieran and Lusmagh – waiting to play a junior hurling match, but no sign of any referee. So I was asked to ref it and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Not long afterwards, Martin got a call from the late John Dowling, who refereed All-Ireland hurling and football finals in the same year (1960), to see if he’d be interested in attending a referee’s course.