Wednesday 21 February 2018

Tommy's exploits inspired me - Walsh

Kilkenny hurler Padraig Walsh. Picture: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny hurler Padraig Walsh. Picture: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

Growing up in the shadow of one of the greatest hurlers of all time would get the better of most young players, but Padraig Walsh has used the example of his older brother Tommy to help forge his own identity in the 'new' Kilkenny.

The younger Walsh hasn't looked back since replacing Joey Holden in the drawn All-Ireland final of 2014 and he has slipped into the famous No 5 shirt with the minimum of fuss.

He may not wear the iconic red helmet but there are glaring similarities. And why wouldn't there be? Having studied the nine-time All-Star during his teens, Padraig has learned what it takes to make it with the Cats.

"I wouldn't have felt much pressure growing up because when Tommy was hurling, all the talk was about him," Walsh said. "I never got any of it. We just looked up to them.

"Being able to see what kind of work went on in the background was a help. It wasn't just going out and hurling matches. You'd see the commitment that went in that other people wouldn't. Seeing that and seeing him going out and winning All-Irelands, all I wanted to do was go out and win All-Irelands.

"When you see your own brother doing it, it makes it even more special and you're mad to do it yourself."

The 23-year-old Tullaroan man dreamed of sharing dressing-rooms with heroes like Henry Shefflin and JJ Delaney and couldn't believe his luck when he contributed to a "special" Liam MacCarthy success in 2014.

His hurling outlook was shaped by the modern-day greats but their retirements brought premature calls - that the good days in black and amber were coming to an end - and the bit was between the teeth of the young Cats.

"At the start of the year we were hearing that we were being written off," he said. "Lads were saying we hadn't a hope and that we were starting from scratch because of all the lads retiring.

"Lads are probably thinking, 'look, we don't want people thinking we only won an All-Ireland because of the lads'. They played a massive role in 2014, but we felt we had a point to prove.

"That 20 minutes after that final whistle goes is a feeling you can't beat and all you want to do is get back that feeling again."

Walsh  and his Kilkenny team-mates jet off to Thailand over Christmas as they freshen up before Brian Cody leads them for 2016's assault on three-in-a-row.

Despite currently teaching agricultural science in CBS Callan, Walsh is hoping to follow his master into primary teaching; he feels there is no stopping Cody, who recently retired.

"His hunger never goes. He's great - he comes back every year and he has such hunger and determination for it. He passes that on to the players and it's great to have a man like that.

"I know lads say that the players Kilkenny have had over the years were phenomenal but they mightn't have won so many if he wasn't behind it."

Irish Independent

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