Saturday 17 August 2019

Walsh: Don't judge this Cats side against great teams of the past

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Leadership in Sport, Lessons for Business’ Networking event to be held on January 26, with proceeds going towards the creation of a National Centre of Excellence for Hurling in St Kieran’s College. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Speaking at the launch of the ‘Leadership in Sport, Lessons for Business’ Networking event to be held on January 26, with proceeds going towards the creation of a National Centre of Excellence for Hurling in St Kieran’s College. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Constant comparisons with arguably the greatest team to play hurling are unfair and the current Kilkenny senior crop should be judged in their own right, according to Cats legend Tommy Walsh.

Eoin Larkin's recent retirement signalled the end of an era as the last player to start all four of the remarkable quartet of All-Ireland wins from 2006-09 called it a day before being welcomed into the legendary Kilkenny retirement WhatsApp group including Henry Shefflin and JJ Delaney.

It boasts more All-Ireland medals than many have had hot dinners but Walsh believes the present squad are being unjustly evaluated against their illustrious predecessors.

Mistake

"The big mistake a lot of people make is trying to judge Kilkenny on 'will they win a few All-Irelands in a row, will they be great?' When we were all starting, there was none of that kind of talk," the nine-time All-Ireland winner said.

"It was 'can you make the team first?' and 'can you win the All-Ireland?' We should go back to judging this current crop on that because when we were coming to the end of our careers it was all these boys who were winning the All-Irelands for us.

"Walter Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid were phenomenal in All-Ireland finals. The boys there now have two or three All-Irelands together. There are great teams that have won only two All-Irelands.

"It'd be better if we judge them against themselves rather than winning multiple All-Irelands."

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Despite an extraordinary career in black and amber, which included winning All-Stars in defence, midfield and attack as he notched nine consecutive awards from 2003-11, Walsh was cast aside in 2014, something he views as Brian Cody and Kilkenny's greatest strength.

"We're lucky that Brian Cody like Alex Ferguson and every great manager is now just looking at now. They're looking at building down the line and if you look at any of the hurlers like myself, Henry, Jackie or Larks come the end of our careers he wasn't afraid to drop us or take us off or not pick us," he said.

"He was thinking of Kilkenny and the future, and I think as long as he stays doing that we'll be in a great position. We would be in a much more difficult position if we had a manager there who was keeping onto the same guys all of the time. Then we could be talking about 'will it all collapse?'"

Having got over the "fierce disappointment that it all ended and that you weren't making the team anymore", the 33-year revels in watching his younger brother Pádraig perform in the No 5 shirt.

Something which doesn't please him is the demise of the Railway Cup, a competition he enjoyed.

"I didn't just play hurling for the big days, I loved every day," he said. "It's good because instead of tearing lumps out of each other every Sunday you get to play with them for once, I'd say players are still having a ball."

Irish Independent

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