Features > Tipperary Hurling Immortals
Born : 1934
Tipp championship career : 1954-1967
Club : Thurles Sarsfields
5 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Medals – 1958 (Capt.), ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, 65.
8 Munster Senior Hurling Medals – 1958 (Capt.), ’60 (Capt.), ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, 65, ‘67.
7 National League Medals – 1955, ’57, ’59 (Capt.), ’60 (Capt.), ’61, ’64, ’65.
1 All-Ireland Minor Hurling Medal – 1952 (Capt.)
2 Munster Minor Hurling Medals – 1950, ‘52.
5 Railway Cup Medals – 1958, ’59 (Capt.), ’61 (Capt.), ‘63, ’66.
10 County Senior Medals - 1955, ’56, ’57, ’58 (Capt.), ’59 (Capt.), ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65.
12 Mid Tipp Medals - 1955, ’56, ’57, ’58 (Capt.), ’59 (Capt.), ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’68, ’69.
5 Oireachtas Medals - 1960, ’61, ’63, ’64, ’65
2 Harty Cup (Munster Senior Colleges) Medals – 1950, ’51.
Centre-Half-Back on Tipperary Team of the Millenium – 1999.
Caltex Hurler of the Year – 1958.
Tony Wall made his name in Thurles CBS when he won two Harty Cup medals in 1950 and 1952. Thurles at this time, like most of the seriously successful college team drew players from far and wide. However on these occasions the Thurles team was made up almost entirely by players from Mid Tipperary, with only one player on either team coming from outside this division. Even among an outstanding generation of young hurlers in the county, Tony Wall stood out at an early stage. He played for Tipperary minors for three years between 1950 and 1952. Tony operated at centre-back for the first two years of his minor career, picking up a Munster medal in 1950, but losing the All-Ireland Final to Kilkenny. The second year saw Tipp losing the Munster semi-final to Cork, but the last year (1952) when Tony was playing at centre-half-forward and captaining the team saw Tipp beat Dublin by a huge score in the final.
Tony almost immediately became part of the senior set-up with Tipp and played at left-full-back in the 1954 senior championship when Tipp lost the Munster Final to Cork. The following year he was at centre-forward when Tipp were shocked by a resurgent Clare, but in the following two years he was back in defence playing at left-half-back beside the great Pat Stakelum of Holycross who was manning the centre-back position. When the 30 year old Stakelum retired after the 1957 championship, Tony Wall was the obvious choice to take over this onerous position, and this he did with great aplomb and remained Tipperary’s centre-back until he retired after the 1967 season.
This was a period of sustained success for Tony at both county and club level, as Thurles Sarsfields dominated Tipperary hurling courtesy of a star-studded team. Tony Wall captained Tipp to All-Ireland victory in 1958, and again in 1960 when they lost to Wexford. This was the last year in which he captained Tipp, but he did accept the McCarthy Cup in 1962 on behalf of his injured club-mate Jimmy Doyle. Tony who had won the inaugural Hurler of the Year award in 1958, had many memorable duels with Waterford’s bustling centre-forward Tom Cheasty during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, in a clash of styles between the tearaway Cheasty, and his antithesis Wall whose approach was described by Brendan Fullam as “strategy-driven, tactical, clinical, and calculating, matched by a temperament that was phlegmatic and unflappable”. Rarely did Tony Wall waste a clearance, and usually eschewed the long, high, crowd-pleasing clearances in favour of a well-placed thoughful ball.
Tony had a very successful career as an Army officer, and his absence when on a peace-keeping mission in Cyprus was surely a factor in Tipperary’s shock defeat to Limerick in the 1966 Munster Championship. This was Tony’s penultimate season in the Blue and Gold, and he was one of four members of Tipp’s great 1960s team who played their last championship game in the 1967 All-Ireland Final defeat against Kilkenny.
By this stage Tony’s reputation as a centre-half-back of the highest rank was well established as can be seen from this excerpt from a 1965 article by Seamus O’Braonain – “He is like good wine – less excitingly spectacular with the passage of the years, but more smooth, safe and satisfying. I speak of Tony Wall, the excellent Tipperary and Munster centre-back for so long that a change will seem, for a time, like iconoclasm. Tony Wall must have the best credentials for consideration as the outstanding defensive hurler of our times. Come to think of it, when has there ever been a greater?”
Tony made a brief return to the centre of Tipperary hurling when he took over as coach for the 1986 season, when Tipp lost a good lead to Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis, in the Munster semi-final. It was considered a disastrous result for Tipperary, although there was slight mitigation in the fact that Clare were for a good stretch of the Munster Final in a commanding position against Cork, and lost by only two points. How Wall’s charges would have faired in the final had the survived the Ennis ambush remains an imponderable.
The meticulousness, discipline and organisation that Tony Wall brought to his own game is reflected in his instructional book “Hurling” which was published in 1965, and remains as relevant today to the aspiring hurler as it did all those years ago.
Tony published an instructional book on hurling in 1965