Sunday 22 September 2019

Keane's regeneration game gets new tune from Walsh and Sherwood

Tommy Walsh and Jack Sherwood embrace after beating Tyrone. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Tommy Walsh and Jack Sherwood embrace after beating Tyrone. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

When Mike McCarthy pushed forward in Kerry's 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final with Dublin to link up with Darran O'Sullivan and set up Colm Cooper for a goal inside the opening 40 seconds, it laid the platform for an emphatic win that few could have seen coming.

Only two weeks earlier they were just a Diarmuid Murphy penalty save from David Kelly away from exiting the championship at the hands of Sligo in a Tralee qualifier.

That McCarthy was provider to Cooper for that opening salvo was unusual on a couple of fronts; first, that he was a defender not accustomed to such forward bursts and second, that he was there at all, having retired after the 2006 All-Ireland win at the age of 28.

McCarthy was happy to stay out too despite consistent approaches from Pat O'Shea and Jack O'Connor, who had returned to take charge in 2009.

But defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final, after a replay, helped to change his thinking.


O'Connor called again, clearly realising the need for a player who oozed the calm authority of McCarthy. The carrot of a move away from corner-back, where he had played for so much of his career, was also dangled.

McCarthy's 'second coming' in 2009, which continued until the end of 2010, was regeneration at its best and pivotal to Kerry's recovery that summer.

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O'Connor was loath to let players slip away easily and managed to coax Eoin Brosnan back to the fold after he had retired in 2009, rebooting himself in 2011 to make a big contribution as Kerry came up just short against Dublin in that All-Ireland final.

Regeneration like it is very much a Kerry thing. When Peter Keane was putting his initial squad together last year, two of those included had not featured for the county in more than two and three seasons respectively.

Tommy Walsh bowed out after the 2016 league, Jack Sherwood had gone after the previous year's championship, having played his last game in the drawn Munster final with Cork.

Yet their influence in turning the recent All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone back Kerry's way was profound.

Sherwood came on at half-time and was an effective link between defence and attack, posting an important 50th-minute point off the outside of his left foot.

Having featured at full-back and centre-back in the league and part of the championship, Sherwood dropped back to the bench but was an assured presence when Kerry needed one after the break.

Walsh was in later but was an obvious distraction to the Tyrone defence which helped to get David Clifford back into the game.

Walsh also set up points for David Moran and Clifford before going out to take two kick-outs down and alleviate further pressure.

His form for Kerins O'Rahilly's in last year's county championship was key to his return, as was Sherwood's with East Kerry.

Walsh's last experience of an All-Ireland final against Dublin in 2015 wasn't a pleasant one as he continued to warm up even after they had sent in a sixth substitute.

His absence of game-time in Kerry's closing two matches was hard to fathom given the impact he had off the bench against Kildare, albeit in a one-sided All-Ireland quarter-final that was long won.

But his work at the kick-out still suggested there was more to come.

In the following year's league he failed to spark and in the aftermath of a heavy defeat to Dublin in the final he left.

Earlier this year former Kerry selector Mike Sheehy conceded they may have rushed him back too quickly after his return from Australia, where he had suffered a debilitating hamstring injury, similar to what ended Paul O'Connell's rugby career.

Legendary Kerry full-forward Eoin 'Bomber' Liston, who appreciates Walsh's' ability from first-hand experience with Kerins O'Rahilly's, thinks the former AFL player should start the final, though respects the sound judgment the management have showed all summer in their deliberations.

"Tommy is a class act. He kept his mouth shut, kept the head down, worked hard and, in fairness, we were all delighted for him in the Meath match first of all and then against Tyrone," he said.

"He did have a terrible injury, any fella that can kick four points in the 2009 All-Ireland final playing Cork... it was the biggest pressure game Kerry would have had up to that.

"Playing neighbours in an All-Ireland final? It was the biggest match for Kerry supporters in 20 years and he delivered in spades. But it's after going back full circle for him again."

Irish Independent

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