Grace Walsh still enjoying the journey
By Cian O’Connell
For more than a decade Grace Walsh has represented Kilkenny. Three All-Ireland titles have been gleaned, plenty of harrowing defeats endured too, but there has always been some joy in the journey.
That is crucial for Walsh, part of a distinguished Tullaroan family, who continue to serve club and county.
Has Walsh’s perspective altered? “I think your perspective just changes with life,” Walsh responds. “I probably would have said and done and believed in things that I wouldn't be saying or doing now back in the day. I think with life perspective changes.
“You have to take as much good out of the day as you can. I think when you go through losses on the pitch you just really appreciate the wins.
"The thing for me and what I've realised, even those years when we lost, I've incredible memories, funny and enjoyable memories with those teams.”
Small details linger in the mind. “At the end of the day, when you are old telling stories to your grandkids, they are the stories you are telling them,” she adds.
“You're not telling them about the All-Irelands that you lost or the matches that you lost, you are telling the stories about what happened the night out after or on the training weekend away, whatever it might be.
“So my perspective has definitely changed - from personal experiences and from work experiences, but also from your sporting experiences. I think that just comes with time and life as you just get older.”
Sport, though, has always been a constant in Walsh’s life. Hurling and camogie was always central. “It was everything to us,” Walsh says about her childhood. “Our family was immersed in the GAA, as was every family in my local club in Tullaroan.
“It is a very small parish, there is not that much else to do there. Camogie and hurling was it - that was your life. It was my parents life, my mam - her father was immersed in Kilkenny GAA, I think he was the longest serving secretary.
“My dad played with Tullaroan all the way through. They were obsessed with it, they instilled that in us.”
Being active opened doors. “We were always outside as kids, we weren't inside too much or you'd get in trouble,” Walsh laughs.
“What comes from that then is friendships,” she states. “I've met some incredible people, I've had some amazing opportunities just from playing sport. You learn different things about yourself from meeting different people and from winning and losing in sport.
“You need to learn how to deal with losses as well as winning. Sport has been massive. It is such an important thing for anybody, whether you play it at a high level or if you play socially, whatever way it is done. It is so important.”
Far from Croke Park or high pressure matches, Walsh highlights the value of simply being involved with a team, regardless of the level. “I moved house this year and I've two new house mates,” she says.
“They asked me to play a bit of tag rugby, I played for an extra bit of fitness. It was just a social game, it was so enjoyable. Just to have that bit of craic, to meet completely different people than you would usually meet in the GAA, so sport is massive for anybody in life.”
Earning a third All-Ireland with Kilkenny in 2022 mattered deeply to Walsh. “There is a good few of us on that team for 10, 12, or 13 years now,” Walsh says.
“I don't think you are going to keep going back playing with a team unless you have belief and faith in that team.
“I know the potential in the team, to get that All-Ireland or to win any All-Ireland is really special. Now, I suppose, a few of us have three, it is just nice to feel not that we have reached our potential - we could have won more - but to respond after the defeats we've had.
“A few of us have lost five All-Irelands. So to reach a final and win three times is great. They are all special in their own way, people ask you to pick out a favourite, but it is a hard thing to do. You appreciate every win that you get when you've gone through so many losses.”
Walsh’s adventure continues.