Thursday 22 February 2018

Walsh geared up for 'battle'

For the second successive year Shane Walsh found himself rising early on the Monday morning after a Munster final defeat to Tipperary.

However, the circumstances and mood were much different, 12 months on from the seven-goal rout that left Waterford hurling despairing on that fateful day by the Lee.

Davy Fitzgerald, the then manager, organised an 8.0am training session and debriefing that morning to cleanse themselves from the humiliation. It worked, as they took out Galway in an All-Ireland quarter-final two weeks later, Walsh's goal proving crucial.

The Monday before last, Walsh was up early to tune into 'Morning Ireland' just after 7.30 to hear who their All-Ireland quarter-final opponents would be. It was a sign of his enthusiasm, his desire to put the Munster final defeat quickly behind him and look ahead.

That it was Cork they drew suited fine, given their record against the Rebels in recent championship meetings. He didn't find the defeat any easier to take but it was just easier to be more positive, he admits. Hence the early alarm call.

"No matter whether you lose by a point or 21, you still lose and that's hard to take," he said. "I certainly didn't use last year as any motivation for this year's Munster final. I don't believe you should dwell on the past.

"We were very disappointed after it but we can take positives out of the game. We created a good few goal opportunities but we just didn't take them on the day. That was the most frustrating thing.

"There was a different management team last year, we've new management in this year and also some new players. We've another opportunity in Thurles against Cork and that will be a big battle."

At 28, Walsh is a late developer in inter-county hurling but has embedded himself quite impressively into the team in the last three seasons.

"I would feel that way now," he agreed. "The goal against Galway (2009 All-Ireland quarter-final) was probably a big moment in my career. Dan Shanahan did all the hard work, though."

His passion for football stalled a much earlier breakthrough for a player renowned for his bravery.

"It took me a while to get up to the pace of inter-county hurling initially because I was concentrating on football as a young fella," he admitted. "I played hurling and football, minor and U-21 for Waterford, but football was probably taking precedent.

"I went to college in Cork IT for a while and would have played football there for their teams under Keith Ricken. It took me time to become established in hurling."

Justin McCarthy had brought him in initially as a 19-year-old but his engineering studies took him to Napier University in Edinburgh -- where he was joined by Waterford colleague Liam Lawlor a couple of years later.

His love of football has always burned deep -- he scored the goal for Waterford in their shock Munster U-21 final defeat of a Jack O'Connor-managed Kerry team just before he took over the seniors -- and making the choice to commit exclusively to the hurling team was difficult.

"My club, the Nire, would be football focused. I'd love to keep it going but I just don't think it's feasible any more with the commitment that's involved," he said.

"We won the county senior football final in 2006 in Waterford and I got brought on to the senior panel then. I'd still play football.

"We got to a Munster club final in 2006 but lost to Dr Crokes in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. That was another disappointment. It was a game we left behind and they went on to lose to Crossmaglen in the final the following year."

It was Davy Fitzgerald who gave Walsh his big break, recognising that his courage and conviction in pursuit of a ball was something that had to be harnessed.

He still hadn't started a championship game for Waterford when he came off the bench to score that goal against Galway in 2009.

And when he bagged two against Kilkenny in the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final he was keeping illustrious company -- only Lar Corbett and Joe Canning have scored more than one goal in one championship game against the All-Ireland champions since they reasserted their dominance in the game in 2006.

Naturally there is respect for Fitzgerald for giving him his break. "It was under him that I started to make it. I've great time for him, he brought me on an awful lot as a player. I'd be very grateful to him for that," said Walsh.

"He did a fantastic job during the few years he was in charge. All the players think highly of him. There's no bad feeling towards him whatsoever."

Goals are his currency and his effort against Clare was a sixth in a short championship career.

Waterford's All-Ireland quarter-final record has been impressive in recent seasons, with wins over Galway (2009 and 2011), Cork (2007) and Tipperary (2006). Their only defeat came against Cork in 2005.

Irish Independent

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