'I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe I could still do a job'
Kilkenny legend Tommy Walsh is itching to add to medal haul this summer, writes Donnchadh Boyle
THESE are strange times for Tommy Walsh, a man whose career can be summed up by some impressive numbers.
Nine All Stars, eight All-Irelands and just one championship game missed in his Kilkenny career only hint at the Tullaroan man's importance to the Cats as they dominated hurling's landscape under Brian Cody.
This spring, however, has been unprecedented for Walsh and the numbers make for less pleasant reason. He has seen just two starts in an eight-match campaign as Kilkenny romped to league success.
In both of those outings, he didn't see the second half. Other than that, he was afforded just two late cameos as Kilkenny tested the depth of their options. It's new ground for Walsh, but a new source of motivation for him.
"Two games there in the league and I came off both of them at half-time," he lamented. "You have to try and store some of it and at the same time forget some of it. You put it quickly behind you and focus on the next match. You have to bring that drive and motivation off that hurt that you had."
Previously an ever-present, his absence has caused quite a stir, though Walsh hasn't paid much heed.
"It depends on what stage you are at in your career they'll come out with different reasons why you play poorly. I suppose when you get to the age of 30 people will say the time is coming to an end.
"You just have to focus. You know yourself what way you are playing and what you need to be doing so you have to focus on yourself. That's what I'll be doing."
Cody used 32 players in the league and a host of frontline players have taken a back seat. The half-back line, where Walsh has been a fixture for more than a decade, is particularly competitive.
Regular centre-back Brian Hogan has also found game time limited as the likes of Jackie Tyrrell, Conor Fogarty and Kieran Joyce are just some of the options Cody can call on. But one of the most promising players in that position have been Walsh's young brother Padraig.
The 22-year-old has long been on Cody's radar as he came up through the Kilkenny ranks but in his first full season with the Cats, he has excelled and on occasion helped keep his more illustrious brother out of the side.
Last Sunday, he added to his burgeoning reputation with a strong display as the Cats saw off Tipp in the league decider.
"He's doing very well. I asked the mother to lock him in the bedroom on Sunday morning but she wouldn't do it! I might have to go up there and do it myself the next time!" Walsh joked.
"He's going well, and all the new players have gotten their chance. You'll only know if they're good enough if you throw them in there. Thankfully we've got huge games in this league.
"None bigger than the league final against Tipperary in Thurles in front of a huge crowd. We found out that we have new players who will be able to produce it on the big day."
Now all focus returns to the Leinster championship clash with Offaly on June 7. If he isn't picked, it'll be the only time since a shoulder injury kept him out of the 2011 clash with Wexford that he'll have missed a championship game. It's one record he doesn't want to add to.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe I could still play. I'll be training as hard as I can over the next few weeks. We're playing Offaly on June 7 and that's our number one focus. Everyone will be doing everything they can do to get on the team."