'Kilkenny are a team on the up' – Cats legend Tommy Walsh expecting further improvement with Galway game the acid
Kilkenny legend Tommy Walsh believes the All-Ireland SHC club success of Ballyhale Shamrocks has fuelled optimism in the county that silverware is just around the corner for the Cats.
Brian Cody's side host reigning Leinster champions Galway this Sunday in Nowlan Park knowing that victory will send them through to the provincial decider.
Victories over Dublin and Carlow leaves Kilkenny in pole position to book their Leinster final ticket with Walsh witnessing a renewed hope on Noreside, although Sunday will be the acid test.
"We're happy with how it's gone so far but the next two weekends are going to be crucial," Walsh said at the launch of Chadwicks sponsorship deal with the Leinster GAA Chadwicks Club Hurling League.
"If they can get a win against Galway on Sunday, you'd imagine they'd be in a Leinster final and that'd be massive for this group because it's not a team on the wane, this is a team that's balanced age-wise.
"They're like a team on the up, the Kilkenny people are after getting in behind them and sometimes it's so important for a county to buy into a team and I think the county are buying into this team."
The Tullaroan great feels the club victory of Ballyhale – managed by his former team mate Henry Shefflin – and the emergence of teenager Adrian Mullen has boosted Cody's charges no end with the prospect of a bright summer ahead.
"Ballyhale's run in the All-Ireland has given the whole county hope again, they played an absolutely brilliant brand of hurling. The All-Ireland final against St Thomas' would have been looked at as kind of like a 50-50 one," the nine-time All-Ireland winner said.
"They just went out and played out of this world and it kind of gave everyone a bit of hope because they were after doing pretty well in the National League and then they had five or six players to come in from that Ballyhale team.
"It wasn't just the likes of Colin (Fennelly) and TJ (Reid), having the likes of Adrian Mullen coming in is just magic. I heard Peter Canavan talking about winning All-Irelands there two or three weeks ago and he said you need great forwards to win All-Irelands.
"And when you've someone like Adrian Mullen coming through, it just bolsters up the attack and gives you a chance, it gives you hope I suppose that you can go on and compete with the best teams."