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Tributes to Linfield's Davy Walsh who played for Northern Ireland and Republic

By Allan Preston

Published 13/04/2016

Davy Walsh in his footballing heyday
Davy Walsh in his footballing heyday
Davy Walsh in his latter years

Tributes have been paid to a Linfield football legend who was picked to play for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Davy Walsh passed away at the age of 92 at his home in England.

He was one of the most celebrated footballers of the post-war era and blazed a trail for other Irish players.

But his incredible career that saw him play for Linfield as one of the club's first Catholic players, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and the two international sides may never have happened had he not been banned from playing Gaelic football as a schoolboy.

"He certainly was quite a unique player in the sense that he was able to play for the Irish free state and also play for the northern team," said Linfield vice-chair Billy Kennedy.

"He was a centre forward, as they called it then, and a very prolific goalscorer.

"His contribution to Linfield Football Club was very significant, and he was very popular with our supporters at the time."

Born in Waterford on April 28, 1923, Davy was one of five siblings born to parents Katherine and David Walsh. As a teenager he thrived playing Gaelic football, but he was banned after he was pictured in a local newspaper playing the "English game" of association football.

With one door closed, he rededicated his life to soccer, first joining Waterford FC.

At 15 he spectacularly scored eight goals in a senior game, catching the attention of Limerick, who signed him shortly afterwards.

In 1943 Linfield came calling and he played there for three years.

To this day he's remembered as a popular figure at Windsor Park and was voted as one of Linfield's top 25 players of all-time in a Belfast Telegraph poll.

In his years at the Belfast club he won league and cup medals, and scored twice in the 3-0 Irish Cup final victory against Distillery in 1946.

He was selected to play for Northern Ireland (IFA XI) and Republic of Ireland (FAI XI) before a 1949 rule change that required footballers to play for one or the other.

His most famous moment came playing for Ireland when he scored the second goal in a 2-0 victory over England in 1949 at Goodison Park.

It was the first time England had been defeated on home soil.

He was unfazed by the star power of greats like Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, who praised Walsh as one of the best players on the pitch that day.

In 1946 he became the first Irish player to transfer to an English club after the war, signing for West Brom.

Initially he struggled with homesickness and post-war rationing, suffering from nosebleeds.

In 1950 Villa signed him for £25,000, the second highest fee in the league at the time.

Retiring from football in 1957, he opened sports shops and raised two children with his wife Eileen, who died in 2012.

His final years were spent in Torquay in Devon where he became a popular figure on local golf courses. He passed away peacefully last month, and was said to put his longevity down to "Guinness and Eileen's home-made puddings".

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