Walsh, John (‘Johnny’) (1911–98), Gaelic footballer, was born 11 February 1911 in Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, second child among three sons and two daughters of David Walsh, local creamery manager and publican, originally from Clonakilty, Co. Cork, and Mary Walsh (née O'Brien), both of Main St., Ballylongford. He was educated locally at Ballylongford national school and later at St Brendan's College, Killarney, where he won an O'Sullivan Cup Munster Colleges medal in Gaelic football, and later at Rockwell College, Tipperary, where he completed a unique double by winning Munster Colleges Cup medals in rugby as the school won three cups in a row in the period 1928–30. Walsh missed the 1929 final with a fractured elbow. In 1932 he spent a year in Waterford, where he was training to be a teacher, and he won a Waterford county championship football medal with De La Salle, and played in a losing county final for the hurling team. He also played for the Waterford county footballers in the national league. That same year he was selected to play for Kerry for the first time in a challenge match against Monaghan, and he played his first senior championship match for the county in the All-Ireland final victory against Mayo, partnering Bob Stack at centre-field. That victory completed Kerry's first four-in-a-row and saw the break-up of that side. He went on to win a total of five All-Ireland medals and played in seven finals, winning further medals in 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1941, missing what would have been an unprecedented five-in-a-row when Galway defeated Kerry in a replay in 1938. His seventh All-Ireland final appearance was in the losing 1944 final, when he had to retire injured. He also won several Railway Cup medals.
At club level he first played for Ballylongford in 1927, and played with nearby Tarbert in 1929–31 and again in 1933, when local politics forced the Ballylongford club out of the game for a period. He was a prime instigator in the formation of the divisional Shannon Rangers club in 1940, and played in the Rangers sides that won the Kerry county championship in 1942 and 1945, captaining the 1942 team. In 1947 he won a North Kerry Championship medal with Ballylongford. Active from an early stage in the administrative side of the game, he was a prime instigator in the development of the sports field in his native parish, purchasing it on behalf of the club in 1940. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s he was involved as selector and/or trainer with the county team, training amongst others the side that lost the 1947 final to Cavan in New York, and the county minor side that won the All-Ireland title in 1950.
A talented and versatile all-round sportsman, at 5 ft 10 in. (1.78 m) he was not a particularly big man, but he won three of his All-Ireland medals playing at centre-field, with his tremendous spring and ability to time his jump to perfection making up for any lack of inches. In 1939 and 1941 he won his medals playing in the half-forward line. One of his outstanding performances for Kerry was in the 1940 All-Ireland semi-final against Cavan (the arch-rivals of the time), when, playing again as a half-forward, he scored a vital goal and the final point as Kerry won by 3–4 to 0–8. A gifted rugby player, in the mid 1930s when Kerry football was in the doldrums he played rugby as a wing-forward for Garryowen Rugby club, playing in two Munster Senior Cup finals, and was banned from playing Gaelic football for six months as a result, although in keeping with the fractious nature of the GAA in Kerry at the time, the North Kerry board allowed him to play in their competitions. Walsh always maintained that his Fine Gael sympathies had a lot to do with his losing his place in the Kerry team at that time, and he returned at the request of the then Kerry captain in 1936. He was also a useful boxer.
A schoolteacher by profession, he was a popular figure in the local Ballylongford boys’ school until his retirement. He also helped run the family pub, worked as an auctioneer, and was a keen fisherman and fowler. Described as generous and courageous, he stood unsuccessfully in Kerry North as a general election candidate for Clann na Poblachta, headed by Seán MacBride (qv), in 1948. He was the first president of Kerry Bórd na nÓg, and was elected president of the Kerry county board in 1994, a position he held up to his death. Johnny Walsh received the Kerry Sportstars Hall of Fame award in 1995 and the GAA Munster Council Hall of Fame award in 1998. After a long illness he died 22 June 1998 aged 87, and is buried in Lislaughtin cemetery.
He married (1943) Elizabeth Barry from Ballybunion, Co. Kerry; they had four sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Jackie, captained the Kerry minor side to victory in the 1968 All-Ireland final, and won two All-Ireland medals as a non-playing substitute in 1975 and 1980; another son, Barry, won an All-Ireland medal as an unused substitute in 1979.