Thursday 8 December 2016

Walsh eager to avoid a shock axe after surprise 2012 call-up

Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30

Walsh delivered a man of the match display in the final
Walsh delivered a man of the match display in the final

Walter Walsh can still recall it, the Friday night meeting before the 2012 All-Ireland final replay with Galway that was to thrust him firmly into the limelight.

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In his mind's eye he can see the flipchart being turned back to reveal the starting team. He can still feel the shock coursing through his body as he spots his name up there - he had never made a Championship appearance, and here he was starting, an ultimately starring, in the replayed final.

Suddenly he goes from hoping to dip his toes in the water to being in at the deep end and swimming with the sharks.

There had been little in the way of warning. There was three weeks between the drawn game and the replay, and things had gone well for Walsh in training.

Well enough that he was starting to give himself a chance of getting a gallop for a few minutes and think about what he might do if he got the nod.

But there were no 'A v B' games that might have given him a clearer hint of what was coming for him. Nothing concrete to go on.

"We typically have meetings the Friday night before a big game on the Sunday," Walsh says.

"Normally there's a flipchart there and the team is revealed. The page is flicked back, and when the page is flicked back, I didn't expect to see my name there. But it was. And I was quite shocked, as you can imagine.

"I suppose I was lucky in the sense I had Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, David Herity - these guys were very good, and just told me to treat it like another game, and not to be too nervous."

The nerves didn't really follow. He slept well for the next two nights, perhaps insulated by the sense of shock.

Whatever it was, it served him well. Walsh (right) delivered a man of the match display in the final. Cody had pulled another masterstroke by including him and Cillian Buckley from the start.

"It was very surreal at the time," he recalls. "I was in shock after the game, and wasn't even thinking about man of the match until CityWest, when someone said it to me.

"I was just delighted with winning an All-Ireland. That's what it's all about. The personal things come after, but as a team that's all you want."

In interviews later he was asked if Cody had any special word for him. The Kilkenny manager kept it simple and asked him if he would be ready for the Walsh Cup in January.

Given that he was college-tied with UCD, he wouldn't be, but Walsh didn't see it as his place to tell Cody any different.

"I agreed but then I was still in college and I had to play with UCD in the Walsh Cup. I didn't say that, I let him figure it out himself. I wasn't available for the Walsh Cup," he explains.

Deserted

There's been a few bumps in the road since. In early 2013, his fitness deserted him as tendinitis and an elbow injury interfered with preparations, though he did manage to feature regularly in the Championship.

The following year he found the shoe on the other foot compared to what he experienced in 2012.

He started the drawn All-Ireland final with Tipperary last September but didn't start the replay as this time, John Power turned out to be the rabbit Cody pulled from the hat to help get Kilkenny over the line.

"Every player wants to be playing. I was just hopeful I would come on, and again you're just delighted to win the All-Ireland," Walsh insists.

"You want to be playing, but if someone is going better than you they deserve to be playing. And that's the way it was. John Power was brilliant that day, scored 1-2, got a crucial goal. "

This year Walsh has found the consistency he's been looking for. Walsh has started every game in League and Championship for the Cats as they have advanced to yet another All-Ireland final.

"You set yourself targets at the beginning of the year, and mine was to play every game, start every game," he says.

"And I have actually started every League and Championship game this year. But you can never be too sure. You always want to improve yourself and get on that team."

Assuming that Walsh starts this Sunday, the Tribesmen are certain to be more than ready for him this time around. Still, all he wants is to see his name on the flipchart.

"Galway look to be playing very well," reflects Walsh.

"The forwards are scoring a lot and seem to be working hard together.

"They seem very intense in their play, their work-rate is very impressive."

Irish Independent

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