Walsh: I never had any doubts about return of Shefflin
Tommy Walsh has no fears about the quickening pace of hurling or Kilkenny's capacity to adapt to whatever way the game is played in 2014.
Kilkenny's nine-time All Star, considered by many to be the greatest half-back the game has known, feels hurling is no faster than it has been in recent years and is adamant it takes much more than speed to win an All-Ireland title.
Henry Shefflin admitted watching Clare's success and the pace of the hurling that was played after Kilkenny's exit from a distance made him wonder about his own future.
But Walsh holds no fear about the pace as he prepares for a 12th season in black and amber.
"It always looks faster when you are looking in. When you are out there... it's like when people ask you about players of the past. Would they have hurled as well today? Of course they would. The best players will just adapt and when you are looking in it looks very fast and when you are in there you just adapt to the speed of it," he said.
"It's a matter of adapting. We all do the same training now, it's so scientific at the moment. Everyone watches their diet so everyone's the fittest and the fastest that they can be now. You'll never see anyone overweight really any more in hurling.
"I think we're all at the one level. Obviously there'll be some players that are faster than others. When we were on top everyone was saying that you have to have a big strong physical team to win an All-Ireland against Kilkenny. Now everyone is saying you need a small fast team to keep up with Clare so I think everyone summarises their own opinions based on the All-Ireland champions. We'll see.
"If we're having the same conversation next year we'll probably be talking about the skills of the All-Ireland champions 2014 so I just think you have to adapt to the strengths of your own team. There's more than one skill than just speed," he cautioned.
Walsh said he never doubted that Shefflin would return in 2014 despite reservations he might have had.
"I didn't anyway because I suppose I know him very well and I'd be onto him the whole time. I knew that he'd come back anyway.
"Sure he loves it and last year he didn't take any break as he was in the gym the whole time but he got very little hurling.
"He did very little hurling last summer. He had no chance to prove whether he was still at the top of his game or not. This is a great year for him now. He has a full pre-season done and he's getting all the hurling in which is more important. It's a great year, just great for us to see him back out there because he puts so much into it," he reflected.
Walsh acknowledged his own form in 2013 was slightly better than 2012 when he failed to win an All Star award for the first time in his senior career.
"You always feel you can improve so you are definitely trying to get back to where you performed at a really high level, that's what we'll be doing as individuals and as a team this year.
"Last year I was up and down. I played at a consistent okay level all year but never hit the heights that I wanted to achieve myself so I want to go beyond that this year."
Walsh admitted "frustration" at watching the build-up to an All-Ireland final and not being involved but reflected on the defeat of Tipperary in the qualifiers as one of the greatest games he was ever involved in even if it was no consolation for the season as a whole.
"The build-up was huge. There was huge tension surrounding it because Tipperary were after denying us the five-in-a-row. Now they were trying to finish us as a team in our own back yard. Not that they were or they weren't but that's what was being said.
"That was something that we didn't want to happen. We wanted to make sure it wasn't going to happen to us in front of our own supporters. You could definitely feel the build-up."