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Ducksy - The Legend

posted 5 Aug 2016, 15:01 by Martin Lalor   [ updated 5 Aug 2016, 21:12 ]

Ducksy – the Handball Legend

This week Kilkenny Handball, and Irish sport, lost one of its finest stars with the passing of the legendary Michael Ducksy Walsh following a short illness. For many years Ducksy was  recognised as the face of Handball in Kilkenny and across the country, and was responsible for a huge surge in interest in the sport which led to packed galleries at many of his matches. His training and playing regimes brought a new intensity to the sport which ultimately led to a situation today where Irish players are considered the best handballers in the world, and have dominated the Mens and Ladies events at International level for last number of years. During his career the Talbots Inch star amassed a haul of titles, which included thirty eight Senior crowns, almost thirty Masters titles and huge success in Ireland and abroad.


Born in the shadows of the handball courts in the Waterbarracks in Kilkenny city, Ducksy was identified early as a future Handball star by the late Tommy O’Brien. Winning All Irelands in U12, U14 and U16 Singles titles in both the 40 x 20 and 60 x 30 codes, he continued this success in the Minor grade where he won eleven National titles across a three year period. As a seventeen year old, Ducksy partnered Eugene Downey to success in the Junior 60 x 30 championship in 1983, thus qualifying them to play in the Senior championships the following year. In 1984 he contested the All Ireland Senior 60 x 30 Singles semi -final, along with closing out his underage career with more success at Minor level.

The first of his Senior 60 x 30 Singles titles was won in 1985, thus starting a phenomenal run of sixteen All Ireland titles in the next seventeen seasons, with the only blemish in 1998.  During this period he also had a very successful Doubles career winning ten All Ireland titles with his long term partner, Eugene Downey. Ducksy was also very proficient in the smaller 40 x 20 court where he collected twelve national titles, which included seven Singles crowns and five Doubles with Michael Reade and DJ Carey. This total of thirty eight Senior All Ireland titles is unlikely to be overtaken.

He also was a winner of the Irish 40 x 20 Nationals title, was Handballer of the year on a number of occasion and was World Championships Open runner up in 1986 and 1994. He competed for Ireland at the USHA Junior championships where he was the first player to complete the clean sweep of all four titles at 15, 17, 19 and 23 level. In recent years he competed regularly in the USA, where he was a firm favourite with the home crowd. Along with winning many overage titles on the US circuit, Ducksy also collected four consecutive World Masters Singles titles since 2006.

As a Masters player, his record is incredible and unlikely to be matched for many years. He  won ten All Ireland 40 x 20 Singles titles in eleven years, was on course to win his eleventh successive 60 x 30 crown this year and collected a large number of Doubles titles along the way.

While success in the Senior grades deserted him when the new kids on the block arrived in the early 2000’s, Ducksie was still seen by many supporters of handball as the man who just wouldn’t give in to age. He was in the top four or five players in Ireland for many years and was a competitor that many a young player feared in either the 40 x 20 or 60 x 30 court. Arguably, his finest achievement in 60 x 30 handball occurred just two weeks ago when he was crowned Irish Nationals Open champion. Although he reached the half century this year, he rolled back the years in his home court, Talbots Inch, when he played some marvellous handball to claim the Open title with a win over Eoin Kennedy (Dublin), a truly remarkable achievement for a player of his age.

Ever since winning his first All Ireland title at under 12 level, Ducksy was a crowd favourite and an icon in Handball across Ireland, and in many other countries where his feats were well publicised in handball circles. Always wonderfully prepared, he left nothing to chance when in pursuit of success. His training regime was of the highest intensity and he was always prepared to meet the new challenges that came his way. He very seldom disappointed his huge number of supporters, many from outside Kilkenny.

In the last few years he was dedicating more of his time to Juvenile development and he was very much involved in preparing the stars of the future.

Ducksy was a legend of his sport, both in Kilkenny, Ireland and further afield. A unique character who represented his club and county with tremendous passion. His success on the handball courts will unlikely be ever matched and his loss to handball is a very sad occasion for such a young man. All in Handball would like to pass on their condolences to his wife Sheena and his three children, Dylan, Megan and Niamh, and to his extended family.

  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam