Tony Wall

Tony Wall

Tony Wall (born 1934 in Thurles, County Tipperary) is a retired Irish hurling manager and former player. He played hurling with his local club Thurles Sarsfields and with the Tipperary senior inter-county team from 1953 until 1967. Wall captained Tipperary to the All-Ireland title in 1958 and later coached the team for one season in 1986.

Biography

Tony Wall was born in Thurles, County Tipperary in 1934. He was educated locally at the Christian Brothers school where his hurling skills became apparent for the very first time. Wall played with the school team and was a key player when the school won two Harty Cup titles in 1950 and 1952.

Following his secondary education Wall had a very successful career as an Irish army officer. The pinnacle of his career came when he was appointed adjutant general of the army. In retirement Wall enjoys golf in retirement and is a member of Clontarf Golf Club in Dublin.

After his retirement Wall maintained a keen interest in the game of hurling. He published a book on the game in 1965 and took over as coach of the Tipperary senior hurling team for one unsuccessful season in 1986.

Playing career

Club

Wall played his club hurling with the famous Thurles Sarsfields club and enjoyed much success. He won his first senior county title in 1952. It was the beginning of a very successful period for the club. Three years later in 1955 he won his second county medal. It was the beginning of five county victories in-a-row, with Wall captaining the club to the final two victories in 1958 and 1959. Thurles Sarsfields lost their county championship crown in 1960, however, the club bounced back by winning another five-in-a-row from 1961 until 1965. It was an unprecedented ten county titles from eleven championship campaigns with Wall playing a key role for all of those victories.

Inter-county

Wall first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Tipperary minor hurling team in 1950. That year he lined out in the centre-back position as he collected a Munster title in that grade. Tipp later reached the All-Ireland final, however, Kilkenny were victorious on that occasion.

Tipp lost their provincial title to Cork in 1951, however, Wall added a second Munster minor title to his collection in 1952 when he captained the team from the half-forward line. Once again the county reached the All-Ireland final. Dublin provided the opposition on that occasion, however, Tipp trounced ‘the Dubs’ by 9-9 to 2-3 giving Wall a coveted All-Ireland medal in the minor grade.

Wall immediately became part of the Tipperary senior team and made his debut in 1953. The county was going through a fallow period as Cork dominated the provincial championship in the early 1950s. Wall played in the full-back position for a number of years and collected a National Hurling League medal in 1957. When Pat Stakelum retired after the 1957 championship, Wall was the obvious choice to take over his position at centre-back. Not only that but he was appointed captain for the 1958 campaign. That year Tipp regained the Munster title for the first time since 1951 following a 4-12 to 1-5 trouncing of Waterford. It was Wall’s first Munster title at senior level. Tipp later defeated Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final before lining out against Galway in the championship decider. Galway got a bye into the final without picking up a hurley. Liam Devaney, Donie Nealon and Larry Keane all scored goals for Tipp in the first-half, while Wall sent a 70-yard free untouched to the Galway net. Tipp won the game by 4-9 to 2-5 giving Wall his first senior All-Ireland medal and the honour of collecting the Liam McCarthy Cup. Wall was also named as man of the match and had now gone down in history as one of the few players to captain his county to All-Ireland titles at both minor and senior levels. He was later honoured by becoming the inaugural winner of the Texaco Hurler of the Year award.

Wall won a second National League medal in 1959, however, Tipperary lost their provincial and All-Ireland crowns. The team signaled their intent in 1960 by capturing the National League title for the second consecutive year. Wall later captured a second Munster title as Tipp defeated Cork in what has been described as the toughest game of hurling ever played. This victory allowed Tipperary to advance directly to an All-Ireland final meeting with Wexford. A certain amount of over-confidence was obvious in the Tipperary camp, particularly in trainer Phil Purcell’s comment that no player was capable of marking Jimmy Doyle. It seemed that Purcell had tempted fate. The game ended in remarkable circumstances as the crowd invaded the pitch with a minute to go, mistaking the referee’s whistle for the end of the game. When the crowd were finally moved off the pitch Tipperary continued playing with only twelve men, however, Wexford won the game on a score line of 2-15 to 0-11.

1961 saw Wall collecting a fourth National League medal, however, he missed the subsequent Munster final against Cork due to his duties with the army. The absence of the All-Ireland semi-final allowed Tipp to advance directly to the final itself with Dublin first native hurling team providing the opposition. The game was a close run thing, however, Tipp held on to win by 0-16 to 1-12. It was Wall’s second All-Ireland medal.

In 1962 Tipperary defeated all before them in the Munster Championship yet again, giving Wall his third provincial title. Tipp’s nemesis of two year’s earlier, Wexford, waited in Croke Park to test them once again in the subsequent All-Ireland final. Wexford, however, were not the force of old and the side got off to possibly the worst start ever by a team in a championship decider. After just ninety seconds the Leinster champions were down by 2 goals, however, the game turned out to be much closer than people expected. Tipp eventually secured the win on a score line of 3-10 to 2-11, giving Wall a third All-Ireland medal.

Tipp lost the 1963 Munster final to Waterford in one of the hurling shocks of the decade. The team bounced back in 1964 with Wall collecting a fifth National League medal. Tipp later cantered casually past Cork in the provincial decider, giving Wall a fourth Munster title. Kilkenny, the reigning All-Ireland champions and staunch local rivals of Tipp, provided the opposition in the subsequent All-Ireland final and were installed as the firm favourites. Tipp had other ideas and their fourteen-point winning margin, 5-13 to 2-8, was the biggest All-Ireland final win since Tipperary had overwhelmed Laois in the 1949 decider. It was Wall’s fourth All-Ireland medal.

In 1965 Wall won a sixth National League medal before Tipp demolished all opposition in the provincial championship giving him a fifth Munster title. Wexford were Tipp’s opponents in the subsequent All-Ireland final, however, the game failed to live up to the two classic games between the two sides in 1960 and 1962. Victory went to Tipp on that occasion by 2-16 to 0-10 with Wall a fifth and final All-Ireland medal.

Tipp lost their provincial and All-Ireland crowns in spectacular fashion at the first hurdle in 1966 when a young Limerick team took them by surprise. The team bounced back in 1967 with Doyle collecting a sixth Munster title. By this stage, however, Tipp’s pool of players was ageing and the county’s hurling fortunes were in decline. Kilkenny provided the opposition in the subsequent All-Ireland final and provided more than a match for Tipperary. Three quick goals laid to rest a bogey that Tipperary had over Kilkenny since 1922. This was Wall’s last appearance for Tipp as he retired from inter-county hurling shortly afterwards.

Provincial

Wall also lined out with Munster in the inter-provincial hurling competition and enjoyed much success. He first played for his province in the Railway Cup in 1958 and captured his first medal that year. Wall captured further titles in 1959, 1961, 1963 and 1966.

Teams

References

  • Corry, Eoghan, The GAA Book of Lists (Hodder Headline Ireland, 2005).

External links

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