HEROIC footballer, Davitt Walsh returned to the Ulster Senior League squad for this afternoon’s FAI Intermediate Interprovincial tournament clash with Connacht after receiving a Gold Medal for bravery.
And he reinforced his hero status on the pitch scoring both goals in the 2-0 win.
It’s been a very difficult thing to deal with and been a very traumatic experience, the whole thing. Life won’t ever be the same, but you have to try and be normal and just get on with things.Davitt Walsh
Last night at a function in Farmleigh House, Dublin, Walsh was presented with the Michael Heffernan Gold Medal for Marine Gallantry by the Irish Transport Minister, Shane Ross and today he netted the opening goal in the victory over Connacht at Douglas Hall, Cork.
The honour was in recognition of his “bravery at huge peril to his own safety to risk life, in an effort to save the life of a child.”
In March, Walsh saved four-month-old baby, Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty when he dived into the water at Buncrana harbour.
Six members of the family were trapped in a car that slid into Lough Swilly. Five members of the family lost their lives: the baby’s father Sean McGrotty, her two brothers Mark and Evan, her grandmother Ruth Daniels, and her 14-year-old aunt, Jodie Lee Daniels.
Walsh carried little Rionaghac-Ann to safety and has been hailed as a hero in the weeks and months since.
The Fanad United striker says that football has been ‘a release’ since that tragic day.
He was given a guard of honour when he made his return to action for Fanad in a game against Derry City Reserves at Triagh-A- Locha in April.
Walsh left Dublin after last night’s ceremony to go to Cork to join with his USL team-mates, who defeated Leinster 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament with goals by Mark Moran, Paul McVeigh and Ryan Varma.
Joint captain, Walsh is back in the squad today as the USL face Connacht at Douglas Hall (kick-off 1.30pm).
“Football is a massive help for me in dealing with everything,” Walsh said.
“It’s been a very difficult thing to deal with and been a very traumatic experience, the whole thing. Life won’t ever be the same, but you have to try and be normal and just get on with things.
“Playing football with Fanad and even this weekend going to Cork for the Interpros, it’s all a release and it’s brilliant for me. Football has been huge for me in the last few months.”
USL manager Peter Moran said of Walsh: “He’s fabulous to have around the dressing room. He’s an inspirational man. He’s a fine player too. I had Davitt at Derry City Under-21s about ten years ago and know him well. I’m delighted to have him in the squad this weekend.”
The USL took the lead against Connacht just after the half-hour mark in Cork as Walsh opened the scoring.
After a fine move down the left, Laurence Toland whipped a dangerous cross towards the front post and Walsh expertly turned home.
Midway through the second half, they doubled the lead. Having surged forward from full-back, Bonagee United’s Gareth Breslin was taken down in the penalty area and the referee awarded a penalty.
And Walsh stepped up and neatly tucked home to the goalkeeper’s right-hand side.