Profile: Fr Matt Walsh

Fr. Matt Walsh

Always proud of the Town. 

Portlaoise GAA is fortunate to have in its ranks many inspirational figures over its long history. None more so that Fr. Matt Walsh, Life President of the club for thirty years until his unexpected death at his home at Lower Beladd on 30 October 1995.

He hailed from old town stock. His parents, Patrick and Bridget Walsh, ran a long established bakery at Market Square. It was in his home that the young Matt acquired his love for the native pastimes and for his town and county. These were nurtured in the local CBS where he excelled at hurling. It was a love that he retained in mostly distant parts all his life.


He was ordained an SMA priest in 1934 and he worked for a quarter of a century as a missionary in Nigeria. After a spell on homeland duty he spent many years as pastor in Piper City near Chicago before retiring to his native town in 1992. All through his life he kept in close contact with happenings in Portlaoise and in the club and regularly corresponded with his numerous friends and admirers in the town and county.


He had memories galore of his playing days. He often recalled being picked up at the Town Hall (in the Market Square burned down in 1945) and transported to matches in bone-shaking drays. He recalled with delight the games against such great teams as Clonad and Abbeyleix when only a puck of the ball would separate them.


In 1949 he was one of the main drivers of the revival of the Portlaoise club. The club had been out of existence for a few years and the games were catered for by other local teams such as the Rovers and Kilminchy. Held in the highest respect by all, he succeeded in bringing the GAA in the town under a single banner again and from there it grew from strength to strength.


As President, along with the GAA President, Paddy Buggy, he officially opened and blessed the new grounds and clubhouse at Fr. Browne Avenue in 1983. He was the proudest man in Ireland to see the club with the All-Ireland title that same year and see his two grand-nephews, Colm and Gerry Browne, stars of that historic campaign.


He was happy to be back in his native town in his retirement. He was a regular at all the town’s matches and always had a word of encouragement for players and mentors. While he took great satisfaction in seeing his beloved club winning, he always encouraged the highest level of sportsmanship, and it was this element that is imbued in Portlaoise players over the generations that made him most proud. His great friend, former GAA President, Pat Fanning, gave a graveside oration to mark the passing of one of the club’s most loyal followers.

Fr. Matt Walsh, pictured with relations, at his Diamond Jubilee celebrations (60 years of priesthood) in the Killeshin Hotel in 1994. Back: Liz Denieffe, Des Browne, Leona Carbery, Richard Fennell, Cyril Browne, Mary Taaffe, Paddy Fennell, Anne Comyn, Frank Taaffe, Collette Browne, Joe Carbery. Front: Mary Ann Garney (Chicago), Pat Walsh, Jane Taaffe, Fr. Matt, Val Dimitri, Rita Sola.
Fr. Matt Walsh gives the blessing at the opening of the club grounds and centre at Fr. Browne Avenue in 1984.
Fr. Matt Walsh, President of Portlaoise G.A.A. Club speaking at the Official Opening of Pairc Ui Faolain in 1995.
Fr. Matt Walsh letter to Portlaoise GAA club 1982.

More Club History To Explore

Profile: Peter Fennell

I feel lucky to have witnessed “The Town” during the ‘60s, reborn in the ‘70s, through to an All-Ireland club title in football in 1983 right up to recent years and last year winning the ninth title in a row.

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