'We're clever enough to know those years were not normal'
Walsh wants an extension of patience for Cody as Cats defend league title
Kilkenny supporters are "clever" enough to appreciate that more than a decade-and-a-half of dominance is not "normal" and that Brian Cody will continue to be afforded the time and space to cultivate a new team, their legendary wing-back Tommy Walsh believes.
Kilkenny landed a league title against expectation last April and then pushed both All-Ireland finalists Limerick and Galway to the wire in subsequent championship games but Walsh is adamant that the incubation period needs to be longer and that hankering for achievement on a scale of the 2000 to 2015 years is not realistic.
Kilkenny have already gone their longest period under Brian Cody without an All-Ireland title and that, says Walsh, is only resetting to the way it has been historically.
"I thought the supporters and general public in Kilkenny were very good to him (Cody) last year. They gave him space. I think youngsters need space," says Walsh.
"It was different when we were hurling because a youngster coming in he was coming on to a seasoned team," he reflects.
"When Henry (Shefflin) came on all the pressure was on DJ (Carey), when Richie Hogan and TJ (Reid) and ourselves came on, all the pressure was on Henry. We were very lucky that the lads took all the pressure.
"The youngster was allowed come in and do his little job and no one took any notice of him. As long as he wasn't making a hames of it he was doing a good job.
"It's different now, there are so many new lads coming now at the one time, we have to forget about results for a while," he cautions.
"I'd be more interested in seeing is there anyone putting their hand up saying, 'Brian pick me come championship' as opposed to the result because I think when you have so many young lads coming at the one time, it's much more difficult.
"You are trying to prove yourself first of all and then you are trying to prove yourself as a team. Rome wasn't built in a day," he warns.
Walsh is excited about his own Tullaroan clubmate and namesake, Tommy Walsh, stepping up in 2019, however.
"I've been watching him since very young and we always knew. We thought he would have made an impact last year until he got the injury but I see him in training with the club and he's able to do things that the ordinary lads can't do. He has it.
"He plays anywhere in defence, he's fast so he can do a man-marking job if he has to. He's very quick. To make it an inter-county level you need a lot of luck, if he gets it he will definitely have an impact," predicts Walsh who recalled his impact when detailed to mark Ronan Lynch, then arguably Limerick's most influential player, in the 2014 All-Ireland minor final.
Walsh is not surprised the Kilkenny public is being so patient as a new team develops. "We have the common sense to appreciate that those 10-15 years were out of the ordinary, that it wasn't just one team. In 2008, there were three future Hurlers of the Year sitting on the bench, that's an amazing thing really. The management were brilliant, county board were brilliant, so many things came right at the right time. I think we realise it wasn't always like this.
"We won the All-Ireland in 1992 and 1993, it was 2000 before we won it again. Before that, we won the All-Ireland in 1982 and '83, were beaten in the All-Ireland in 1987 and 1991 against Tipperary, our biggest rivals. Then we were lucky enough we came through in '92, nine, 10 years of gaps there. We're clever enough to know that that is probably normal.
"You knew (how good they were) when you were marking players in training, you were either marking Henry, TJ, Eddie Brennan, Eoin Larkin, Richie Power. I used to always say about Joe Canning, when Joe was playing before he won his All-Ireland, everyone expected him to win the All-Ireland for Galway.
"I felt we had six or seven Joe Cannings in our forward line. Everyone spoke about our mental strength, our perseverance, our will to win, but what disguised all that was the brilliance of our forwards. They were all geniuses in their own right and if we had one of them on the team, I would have expected to have been in with a chance of winning an All-Ireland. These are guys who could win a match on their own for you and we had seven at the one time."
Richie Hogan's early-season fitness after a troubling 2018 will be a big lift, Walsh believes. "Richie being fit at this time of year will give massive confidence. He's a leader because he's been there so long and has done it on so many occasions, he's able to take on the mantle and it doesn't take much out of him. TJ (Reid) will be back after Ballyhale's run finishes up so with the two lads back at their peak fitness and then the younger lads with an extra year or two under their belts, more as a team, there mightn't be as much pressure on the likes of TJ to try and do it all on his own. That will be spread out a bit."
Walsh expects resurgent challenges from Clare and Waterford in 2019. "Clare, for the simple reason, that I think they were very structured for so long, that you know they were playing to systems. Hurling is so difficult. It's a creative game. It's a game you play off instinct. That's my philosophy, when it's played at its best. I think they are slowly but surely, over the last two or three years, coming back to that."