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Sydney exile Walsh insists Donaghy impact will be vital


Walsh will watch in Australia

Walsh will watch in Australia

Walsh will watch in Australia

Tommy Walsh knows Kerry are underdogs today. The Sydney Swans star, who is recovering from a serious hamstring injury, concedes that "it's not something they are used to but Kerry won't mind it either."

The last time Kerry won an All-Ireland was through the back door in 2009, beating Cork who had earlier thrashed them by eight points in the Munster semi-final replay.

The Kerins O'Rahillys man scored four critical points for the Kingdom that day, winning his first All-Ireland medal before heading to Australia to change codes.

"People are reading into the fact that they have fallen away at the end of the Cavan and Cork games," he says. Injuries and not being "seriously" tested other than the Cork comeback in the Munster final has fed into this underdog narrative.

Dublin's well-publicised pace has meant Kieran Donaghy has been sacrificed to the bench. "Knowing the man, he won't take it negatively, he will be very positive throughout the week and nudging those younger fellas through."

Walsh knows all about a fast forward line having worn Donaghy's full-forward jersey in the 2009 decider. He just hopes Donaghy "comes on early enough to have a big impact on the game". The Austin Stacks man is central to Kerry's game plan. With three All-Ireland titles under his belt, "Kerry play well when he's on song," says Walsh.

Midfielders Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley are "important to Kerry's cause" too, he says. Walsh rates Maher as a "great player, doesn't do any flashy stuff", while Buckley's calibre's is measured by David Moran's omission. Despite playing "a great game against Cavan, Anthony came straight in for him, that's how highly rated he is. Very solid player." Above all, both midfielders "are good kickers off either side, have good football brains."

Six of today's team, Colm Cooper, Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Galvin, Darren O'Sullivan and the Ó Sé brothers, all played on the successful 2009 team. When asked if it was fair that questions are being asked of the mileage under the Kerry team, Walsh replies "maybe".

"But what you have to remember is that those boys have so much experience, they've done it countless number of times and done it on the big stage. When the games come down to the last 10/15 minutes, they're the guys who are going to be standing up for Kerry and win the game, that's why they are still playing."

On the Gooch's selection as centre-forward, Walsh believes it is just a symptom of how tactical football has become. "You have your full-forward line, you have your three men on them and then you have two more sitting back in front of them. It's very hard for a good player like Gooch when they get the ball to play anything with it. When he's a bit further out the field he can get it out there and get it in. He's like a playmaker out there."

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Walsh will be watching the game at 12.30am Australia time with his housemate Tony Armstrong. His Sydney Swans team-mate will be "looking at it a bit closer" after his selection to the Indigenous International Rules team which tours Ireland in October.

Walsh had an operation to reattach hamstring tendons to the bone earlier this year and his recovery steps up significantly from tomorrow morning when he returns to training. He was back running for the first time last week and is clearly upbeat, saying he made "a good bit of progress".

He will be back to full training in early December, ready to compete for a place when the AFL season starts again in February.

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