Another Tommy Walsh set to step into limelight with Kilkenny
Legendary defender predicts a big future for his namesake, also from famed Tullaroan
Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh in action against Dublin’s Conor Burke. “We always said he’d get to the top. I’ve been watching him since very young, and we always knew,” said former Kilkenny great Tommy Walsh. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Without much prompting it was inevitable that Tommy Walsh would single out Tommy Walsh.
When asked about the future of Kilkenny hurling, or this their 21st season under Brian Cody, Walsh pointed firstly towards his Tullaroan club mate, relation and namesake, now primed to take one of the corner back positions in the upcoming Allianz Hurling League.
No pressure, naturally, at least not when trying to match Walsh’s nine All-Ireland titles, nine All Stars, seven National Leagues, 10 Leinster titles, and status as one of the finest ever wing backs in the game. Still there is an encouraging word of endorsement.
“Our grandfathers would have been brothers, lived inside in Tullaroan, so what are we, second cousins?” says Walsh, who retired from Kilkenny at the end of 2014, but still plays alongside his namesake with Tullaroan.
“He was on the panel early last year, then got a groin injury, but was a three-year county minor a well, and we always said he’d get to the top. I’ve been watching him since very young, and we always knew . . . we thought he would have made an impact last year until he got the injury.
“But I see him in training with the club and he’s able to do things that the ordinary lads can’t do. He has it.
“He plays anywhere in defence, he’s fast so he can do a man-marking job if he has to. To make it an inter-county level you need a lot of luck, sometimes it could be the most important factor in it all, so hopefully he gets the rub of the green, gets a bit of luck. If he does he will definitely have an impact.”
The new Tommy Walsh also still has another year at under-21: “He’s a quiet guy, we’d be different in our characters, he’d be unassuming, but when he gets out on the field he’d be no different.”
Along with Walsh’s brother, Pádraig, plus Martin Keoghan, it means three Tullaroan players will likely feature this season, starting with the Allianz Hurling League, when Kilkenny welcome Cork to Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Any more Tommy Walshs coming?
“That’s it for now. There was a guy from Ballyhale, we’d go down there after the All-Irelands, because the captain would usually be there. There’s a lad down there, Tommy Walsh as well, and every time he used to meet me he’d just say, ‘well me?’. There is only the two of us in Tullaroan at the moment.”
Since retiring, Walsh’s insight into the game has been winning him much praise and he’ll serve as co-commentator on eir sport’s upcoming live league coverage.
“The last thing I ever thought I’d be involved in,” he says. “The number one thing is that I love it and if I didn’t like it I probably wouldn’t be doing it. On match day itself, you are going to a match and you are buzzing. I treat it like a match day as if I am playing myself.
“The hardest thing I found in my last year with Kilkenny when I was a sub, I missed the buzz in the lead up to the games because you don’t go through the same emotions and while on one side you don’t have the big game nerves, on the other side you don’t get anything back out of it so I found that very tough. Now on a Sunday going to a match, I’m not just as a supporter but with a job to do.”
Whatever about the outcome of 2019, Walsh also reckons his former team -mate Henry Shefflin, currently managing Ballyhale Shamrocks as they prepare for an All-Ireland club semi-final, is grooming himself to some day take over from Cody.
“I’d say Henry would probably be your most obvious choice. He’s brilliant with people. Like, even when he was hurling that time, he was the star of the team for so long, but there was never any jealousy, there was never any envy towards him, because he is a man of the people as well.
“But I thought the supporters and general public in Kilkenny were very good to Brian Cody last year as regards they gave him space. I think youngsters need space. It was different when we were hurling because a youngster coming in was coming on to a seasoned team.
“I’d be more interested in seeing is there anyone putting their hand up saying ‘Brian pick me come championship’ as opposed to the result because I think when you have so many young lads coming at the one time, it’s much more difficult because you are trying to prove yourself first of all and then you are trying to prove yourself as a team.”