Crusheen goalkeepers who wear the Saffron and Blue are enjoying a riotous time of it lately. Whatever way the ball has come at them, be it the big one or the small, they have thrown themselves in its path, diverting it over or outside them at times when their county desperately needed their intervention.
Donal Tuohy’s save in the U-21 All-Ireland final has gone down as one of the greatest saves ever made by a Clare goalkeeper. Without it, Kilkenny may well have won the title.
Two weeks before that heroic Sunday, the Clare lady footballers qualified for the All-Ireland final. They wouldn’t have done so without Denise Walsh’s magnificent goalkeeping display. The Crusheen girl, an academic researcher at NUIG, made two critical saves when the game was there to be won, while she also stopped a late Waterford penalty.
Clare’s goalkeeper when the county won the Munster senior title in 2001, Denise won’t be heard complaining if she doesn’t see as much of the ball against Fermanagh in Croke Park.
“I think DOB (David O’Brien) was saying it’s a bad day at the office if your goalkeeper is being considered the star of the show. So hopefully I’ll have a quieter day in the final,” the St Michael’s, Galway, player said.
The fact that Waterford scored 3-9 to go along with those match-winning saves, doesn’t bode too well for Clare though. They will have to tighten up if they are going to best Fermanagh. Denise Walsh is certain that they will.
“Even though the Clare defence appeared to be ragged at stages during the semi-final, I’d like to refute that assumption and state, it was, in fact, a tactical illusion! Be it Sineád (Eustace), Lorraine (Kelly), Michelle (Delaney), Sineád (Kelly), Sarah (Hoey) or Speedy (Louise Woods), I know they’re a fantastic defence, who’ll give 60 minutes of honest endeavour next Sunday. Can’t ask for more,” Clare’s number one said.
There was a time when Denise was too honest for her coaches’ liking. If a ball went over the bar, she all but put the white flag up for the umpire. Not any more. These days Denise is often spotted, arms waving wildly, rather rowdily disputing the odd score with befuddled umpires. Sometimes they give in and signal wide, what is often a clear point. She insists that it’s all part of the plan.
“DOB kind of had a dig at me for being too honest there at one stage because I’d signalled a point as the trajectory had been spot on,” Denise recalled.
“But we got a call there in a match against Cork and it worked again when we played Galway in the league. There have been a few dodgy calls made in Croke Park already this year, so why not make it another one for Sunday?” she asked.
Battling with umpires is not what one would immediately associate with an academic researcher.
“I’m not the quietest of people anyway. I don’t take too much time to myself to be contemplating and I think every umpire would recognise me for the last few years,” Denise maintains.
If Clare win, Crusheen will be home to two more All-Ireland medals, adding to the four won earlier this month.
“I suppose it’s a proud month for anyone connected to Crusheen. It was amazing, especially with the four lads, Donal, Cian (Dillon), Ciarán (O’Doherty) and Joe (Meaney). Hopefully myself and Rachel (Lenihan) will be able to bring a few more medals to the parish,” she said.
If they do, September ’09 will be remembered as a barren month for goal intentioned forwards intent on shaking the net behind Crusheen net minders in Croke Park.