Tommy Walsh not giving up his Kilkenny role yet

All Star number five is willing to work to win his place back for championship

Tommy Walsh was on the Kilkenny bench for this year’s National Hurling League semi-final and final.

Tommy Walsh was on the Kilkenny bench for this year’s National Hurling League semi-final and final.

Thu, May 8, 2014, 01:00

Tommy Walsh’s nine All Stars and eight Celtic Crosses are not counting for much at the moment.

Arguably the greatest number five hurling has ever seen, he was substituted by manager Brian Cody’s at half-time not once but twice during Kilkenny’s successful league campaign before the unsettling role of being an unused substitute in last Sunday’s final victory over Tipperary.

Even in extra-time, Cody persisted with the fresh blood he has infused into the panel.

Walsh’s younger brother Pádraig, eight years his junior at 22, wore five on his back in the league semi-final victory over Galway, while Joey Holden was named at right half back for the final.

‘Huge games’
“I asked the mother to lock him in the bedroom Sunday morning but she wouldn’t do it! I might have to go up there and do it myself the next time!

“Ah no, he’s going well, and all the new players have gotten their chance. You’ll only know if they’re good enough if you throw them in there.

“Thankfully we’ve got huge games in this league. None bigger than against Tipperary in Thurles in front of a huge crowd. We found out that we have new players who will be able to produce it on the big day. It’s a great confidence booster for the team and those players themselves.”

The party line flowed from Walsh yesterday, up in Croke Park where the GAA and GPA announced their 10-year sponsorship deal with Glanbia.

It’s a team game and of course he wants his place back. A brief stint with Tullaroan for club championship this week might sort it out and anyway the hard work behind closed doors at Nowlan Park is only beginning.

“It’s only over the last few weeks, when the bright evening came back in and we were back county training from our clubs that you’d get a chance to be playing big training matches,” said an unperturbed Walsh.

“During the league I suppose the darkness is there and there is not much really done other than physical training and a match on a Sunday. It’s only now you get a chance to put your name in the hat to be on the team so the next few weeks will be very important.”

Walsh freely admitted the Kilkenny team is still being picked on form.

“I think the way it has always been since I was on the panel anyway is that Brian has picked the players that are in the best form at the time.

“That has never changed. It’s great for the panel in so far as everyone knows that Brian and the management team won’t be going on reputations.

“It just keeps everyone on the panel honest and gives everyone hope.”

‘Training hard’
Having played 46 championship matches since his debut in 2002, missing just one against Wexford in 2011 due to an injured shoulder, can he force his way back in?

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe I could still play. I’ll be training as hard as I can over the next few weeks. We’re playing Offaly in four or five weeks time, on the 7th of June, and that’s our number-one focus.”

So, not dark yet. That Kilkenny won the league without him, and with Henry Shefflin bottled up by Tipperary defender Cathal Barrett, while Brian Hogan and Eoin Larkin started on the bench proves that Cody has changed the dynamic within the group.

“I suppose inside the camp we always thought and we trained with the mindset that we depend on nobody. So no matter who is playing or who is not playing on a given day that we have a team that is capable of winning the match that we were playing.

“That has not changed and it’s not going to change in the near future either.”

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