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Walsh recalls semis pain after Cluxton's kick-out mix-up sank Kingdom

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Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SAME All-Ireland semi-final, radically different perspectives. For Dublin, it was a day of delirium. In the star-struck eyes of the neutral public, it was an instant classic. Yet in the mind's eye of Donnchadh Walsh, it was the one that got away and ultimately it all boiled down to one kick-out.

In tandem with the peerless playmaker (Colm Cooper) and the dead-eyed assassin (James O'Donoghue), Walsh was central to Kerry's swashbuckling first half. He scored one goal, had the final pass for another and was fouled for the penalty that led to a third.

Kerry were rampant... and yet by half-time they only led by two points and in the 69th minute, when Declan O'Sullivan hit an uncharacteristic wide off his trusted left, parity reigned, the game on a knife-edge.

Cue Stephen Cluxton's fateful kick-out – which Kerry looked poised to gobble up until a mix-up between David Moran and Marc ó Sé, and the diving intervention of Michael Darragh Macauley, left Kevin McManamon galloping through Kerry's suddenly exposed central corridor. You know what happened next.

"It's hard to look back now and know what kind of feelings I have," Walsh muses, almost five months on.

"You put so much effort in the whole year and in that one game. It can come down to one moment of the game. It just kind of instils your knowledge that it is sport at the end of the day... how can you justify the complete sense of loss that we felt, compared to the joy Dublin felt?

"Basically it came down to one incident, one kick-out. That's the great thing about sport, you just get on with it. You have to accept that and basically work harder, (so) that you're not left in that situation again."

TIE-BREAKER

It's true that Dublin ultimately won by seven points, thanks to another injury-time goal from Eoghan O'Gara, but in a game of inches, McManamon's three-pointer was the tie-breaker.

Do Kerry feel they left it behind? "Absolutely," Walsh concurs. "If we had claimed that kick-out, you could imagine that the game could have gone another way... but in saying that, the Dubs ran out convincing winners as well, so you wonder could they have put the pedal down later on? We are still hurting a small bit, but we have a chance to put it right on Saturday night."

The workaholic wing-forward is happy that another Allianz League campaign starts with another Croke Park tilt at the reigning All-Ireland champions, Kerry's nemesis in 2011 and 2013.

Motivation won't be a problem and he would "love to get back and beat them", while stressing that he "won't read too much into it if we lose".

It's all about getting off to a good start and he hopes to have bigger battles with the Dubs, at the business end of the league or championship.

LEADERSHIP

If that happens, chances are Sky Blue fans will be more familiar with the man from Cromane, whose growing influence and leadership within the Kerry set-up was obvious last summer.

He's now 29 and based in the capital, in the final year of a three-year physiotherapy course at the Royal College of Surgeons.

"I moved up here the week after we lost to Dublin in the 2011 final," Walsh recounts, confirming the veracity of a story that his new classmates didn't know who he was.

"They had been asking me if I had been at the game," he expands, "but I was down in the dumps that week and I did not have the heart to tell them that I was actually playing.

"It was a funny few weeks afterwards – there was a presentation on sports injuries and there was a picture of me used in the presentation and they were wondering, 'What are you doing up there wearing a Kerry jersey'?"

They know now.


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