Friday, 2 December 2011

Mickey Walsh

Ireland's Dragon

1980 - 1986 : FC Porto (Portugal)
1986 - 1987 : Salgueiros (Portugal)
1987 - 1988 : Espinho (Portugal)

The accolade of Ireland's Most Succesful Footballer in Europe may well rest with Mickey Walsh. The English-born striker spent eight years in Portugal's Primera Divisao, winning two league titles, a cup title and four super cups, while narrowly missing out on two major European trophies.

Walsh's stunning strike for Blackpool was Goal of the Season in 1975

Walsh began his professional career at 19 with Blackpool in England. He scored 72 goals for the Seasiders in just under five full seasons with the club, earning him a reputation as a prolific and sublime goalscorer. His strike against Sunderland in 1975, was voted Goal of the Season in Division 1. His Ireland debut came a year later, qualifying for the Republic via his father who was from county Mayo.

Disappointing spells with Queens Park Rangers and Everton were to follow, before a surprise move to FC Porto. Porto had lost out on the League title the year before and were intent on building a new squad. This would be the beginning of a highly successful phase of the Irishman's career. A Cup medal in 1984 and three Super Cup medals in 1981, 1983 and 1984 would soon fill his mantelpiece. Walsh would score 42 goals in 85 games for the Dragons and become a fans favourite at the club.

With Porto, front row second from the left.

But the highlight of Walsh's career in Portugal would come in the 1983/84 season's European Cup Winners Cup. Wins over Dinamo Zagreb and Rangers would bring Porto to the Quarter Finals where they would face Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukrainian side were vanquished 4-3 on aggregate, the pivotal goal coming from Walsh in the second leg to win the tie. A semi-final victory over Aberdeen would pit Porto against Michel Platini's Juventus in the final. Sadly, for Walsh he witnessed most of the match in Basel from the bench, coming on in the 80th minute. Juventus won the match 2-1. Years later, in spite of the defeat, Walsh would recall the day as the highlight in his career. "I have great memories of that run in 1984; it was a big deal for us because it was our first European final." 

The 1984 Cup Winners' Cup Final

Much to his natural dismay, however, Porto would reach the pinnacle of European football just after his exit; "I left Porto in 1986 and within a year they were champions of Europe – I don't know if that had anything to do with me leaving."

Walsh would win a further two Portuguese leagues and a Super Cup before leaving Porto. He stayed in Portugal however, finishing out his career with Salgueiros and Espinho in the Primera Divisao and the Liga del Honro respectively. Retiring at 34, Walsh's record in the Portuguese top flight was 47 goals in 114 appearances, winning 7 trophies.

Today Walsh is still in football, acting as an agent in Portugal, a notable client being Chelsea full-back Paulo Ferreira. His reputation as a top player was known in Britain, Ireland and Portugal, and he remains one of the few Irish footballers to win major trophies on the continent. An enormous success.

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