New Bray Wanderers midfielder Craig Walsh has suggested his stint in amateur football has provided with him a chance to fulfill his pro potential.
The Dubliner was earmarked as a potential star of the future after featuring and impressing on Sky One’s Football’s Next Star.
A move to Shamrock Rovers followed for the Cherry Orchard graduate and a career in the LOI followed.
However, while Walsh had stints with Longford Town, Bohemians, UCD and Shelbourne by 2015 he wasn’t enjoying his football and much publicised off field problems eventually ended with him being banned from the game.
Indeed, the honest footballer admitted he had fallen into a deep depression during that period.
A break from the top end of football was as much needed as it was enforced, but Walsh stayed in touch with the game by working with his local side Inchicore Athletic for a year.
Then when the ban was lifted the now Bray Wanderers starter seemed to feel the need to earn his dues again and elected to wear his boots in the LSL Junior tier- and it was during a period at The Core that he feel back in love with the game.
That in turn inspired Walsh to become somewhat ironically more professional in his approach to the amateur ranks than he was during his time in the League of Ireland.
Success at Inchicore and indeed league select level lead to a move to Crumlin where another impressive season alerted his old boss Martin Russell and the player with an eye for a spectacular strike now has the chance to fulfill his potential.
Speaking to The Greatest League in the World podcast Walsh explained how his amateur stint not only helped him but inspired him to put practices in place that he believes will help upon his return to the LOI.
“I helped out with my local club Inchicore (Athletic) and they won a Sunday Major, which would be the top junior league in the Leinster Senior League. I was giving them a dig out, so I didn’t take myself away from football all the time. I kept myself involved. Then I got a phone call saying a year was knocked off the ban, but I didn’t feel it was right to go back straight into the League of Ireland. I said I was going to start from the bottom. I started playing 1B in the Leinster Senior League and I found the love for it again. I just wanted to train, I just wanted to play football, I found myself going out to the flats in Inchicore and kicking a ball against a wall, stuff that I had done when I was younger,” explained a player who lit up the amateur game for two season.
“Then I got Inchicore promoted, I was the first player from 1B to represent the Leinster Senior League panel, we played Scotland, we beat Scotland,” he added before discussing his season at Crumlin.
“Then Martin Loughran and Sean O’Connor got in touch and asked if I wanted to step it on a level, they said ‘we think you can get back playing League of Ireland’ (so I went to Crumlin). There was a bit of disappointment on Inchicore’s behalf-they were great for me that year and they are a good up and coming club- but I just had to ask who plays the best football, where would I develop more, because I was a couple of years behind those at the top of the Leinster Senior League, so I decided to go in with Crumlin. I trusted Seanie having played with him and he and Martin said they were willing to work with me and give me the opportunity.
“I just knuckled down, worked hard and never missed training. I made sure I was first into training. If training was at 7:30 I was there 20 minutes early and not leaving straight away after, having a cup of tea, little things like that. My performances over the season with Crumlin went right up, I banged in 20 odd goals. I was playing a more advanced role, with a bit more freedom and with good lads around me that wanted to play the right way. Now we didn’t win the league, Bluebell won it and deservedly so, but we came second and we won the Charlie Cahill Cup.”
Walsh admitted that he changed his mindset, approach and routine whilst at Inchicore and also credits that with his footballing revival.
“I am not going to change anything because what has got me to hear is what I have been doing (in the amateurs) over the last two years.”