| 14.6°C Dublin

I'd rate Walsh the best half-back of any generation


Tommy Walsh wins a puck-out against Noel McGrath during the 2011 All-Ireland SHC final against Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Tommy Walsh wins a puck-out against Noel McGrath during the 2011 All-Ireland SHC final against Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE


Tommy Walsh wins a puck-out against Noel McGrath during the 2011 All-Ireland SHC final against Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

It's been the week for talk of legacies and for that impossible task of comparing eras and players from different generations.

Declan O'Sullivan walked away from Kerry to huge acclaim and then Tommy Walsh followed suit in Kilkenny.

It's hard to be unequivocal in these situations. You can only go on what you've witnessed yourself. And from what I've seen, Tommy was pound for pound the best half-back I have seen.

Name who you want from the last couple of decades. Brian Whelahan and all those other greats. Tommy was up there with them.

He was never the biggest man on the field but that almost added to his magic.

I always thought Tommy's clearances were met with a little bit more of a roar than everyone else's. I think people responded to his defiance. They could identify with someone going into a contest disadvantaged but coming out with possession anyway.

He was a star from the off. I remember seeing him first at colleges level. He was playing corner-back for UCC and you could see then that he had something extra. Not long after that he popped up with Kilkenny against Galway in a league game and from there he never looked back.

There was some talk about what was actually his best position. Given that he won All Stars all over the pitch, it's a fair question but he did really make the number five jersey his own.

I often thought he marked the ball as much as the man. He had the ability to read the play and sweep behind his half-back line and win possession. He also had the timing of no one I've ever seen. Split second stuff that made him so great to watch.

He obviously had the wrists but he also had that lightness on his feet. He'd take two or three little steps and all of a sudden he'd have an acre to clear the ball. That's something you have or you don't. It's something you can't put into a player.

Combine that with his fearlessness and there was so much to admire. He made it all look so easy.

His opponents will tell you he was hard too. Tommy could give it out in spades but he'd take it too. You never saw him lying down. He'd hop straight back up and get on with the game

When it comes to Tommy, the numbers speak for themselves. There were 54 championship appearances, nine All Stars in a row and nine All-Ireland medals.

Those figures mean he can hold his head high in any company you care to mention. Tommy has nothing left to prove to anyone. And he hasn't had for a long time.

I have to admit I was surprised when I heard the news that he was going to pack it in.

I had heard he was going well in training but so were a couple of others like his brother Padraig and Cillian Buckley who were also playing in the half back line.

Brian Cody's selection decisions have constantly been proven to be spot on so you can't argue there.

I wouldn't have bet against Tommy forcing his way back into the team next year had he hung around but he has chosen to move on. I suppose you can only guess that he feels like he is going out at the top. Winning an All-Ireland with his brother last year would have been special but watching on from the stands is difficult when you've been front and centre so many times before.

Now that he has moved on, it will leave a hole in the Kilkenny dressing room. It changes the dynamic in any group when you lose someone of that stature. I'm not sure what effect it will have on others who are around Tommy's age.

They might feel like they have had their day too but only time will tell that. The younger lads will have looked up to him as well. He'd have been a father figure for so many of them.

People have shared their favourite moments from Tommy's career.

It might be a hook, a block a score or most likely some great catch where he emerged from a mass of men, all of them much bigger than him with possession.

I remember him being at the All Stars one night. Kilkenny had won the All-Ireland and Tommy had been picked as an All Star. Yet, the first thing the following day he was on the road down to Portlaoise to play for Ireland in a Shinty international.

There wouldn't have been 200 people at the game but he had made a commitment and off he went to the game.

Tommy has long been a star but it was his humility that made him stand out.

He'll be a loss not only to Kilkenny but the game as a whole next year.

As far as legacies go, it doesn't get any better than that.

Irish Independent