Achieving his goals

Irish Water Engineer Shay Walsh: “My job worked well with my sporting career in that most of my bosses over the years were West of Ireland men who had a big interest in football.
Irish Water Engineer Shay Walsh: “My job worked well with my sporting career in that most of my bosses over the years were West of Ireland men who had a big interest in football." Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – This is Engineers Week, celebrating engineering across Ireland and encouraging a new generation to join the profession. One who made that leap is former Galway All-Ireland winning footballer Shay Walsh. He tells DAVE O’CONNELL about the work, the challenges and the job satisfaction.

His name will always be remembered as one of those heroes of 1998 – when Galway famously saw off Kildare to     land the Sam Maguire and bridge a 32-year gap – and football will always be   a big part of Shay Walsh’s life.  Even now, he lines out for his native    Glenamaddy – and the Galway Masters – but foot-ball also continues to play its part off the field . . . like when you have to defuse a disagreement on a construction site.

“I’d have to say that football has helped me hugely in my career, even on site where things can get a bit tense under pressure. Even if people didn’t necessarily agree with you, perhaps there’s a little bit of respect or admiration for what you’ve achieved,” he says.

The Glenamaddy native is employed as Asset Operations Engineer with Irish Water, covering Galway City and County. He is modest about his achievements – professionally and in sport – but the common thread on both fronts is his dedication and commitment to the cause.

Before moving to Irish Water, he spent time working with one of the country’s biggest construction companies, in private engineering practices and was the best part of a decade with Galway County Council.

It’s a career that Shay loves for all of its challenges and work satisfaction, and a job that dovetailed with his preferred subjects at second-level as he examined his options for college.

“It wasn’t that I always said I’d be an engineer but I suppose I was stronger at Maths and Science subjects at school,” he says.

So, when he had that ‘chat’ with his parents at the age of 18 on his best options for college, engineering was generally agreed as being the best path.

It helped that both of his parents were teachers – his late father Séamus at Coláiste Seosaimh in Glenamaddy and his mother Brid at Clonberne NS – and a straightforward under-grad in civil engineering opened up other possibilities for further study and career choices.

“It meant you could branch out into a whole range of areas – from water like me, to construction, design, working with local authorities. You weren’t limiting your options from the start,” he says.

Hitting the market at the height of the Celtic Tiger – and the building boom that came with it – Shay graduated in 1997 when engineers were in great demand.

Modestly, he credits an uncle with laying the foundation for his first job with JJ Rhatigan’s where he worked for a year and a half before taking six months out to travel to Australia with a couple of his team-mates.

He returned to work with Ryan Hanley – one of the top engineering companies in the West – where he remembers the interview with the then-MD Sean Gannon from Dunmore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.