Sport Hurling

Saturday 24 February 2018

War of the Walshes gives Cody headache

Padraig Walsh (left, alongside his sister Grace) is battling his brother Tommy for a place in Kilkenny’s starting line-up sportsfile
Padraig Walsh (left, alongside his sister Grace) is battling his brother Tommy for a place in Kilkenny’s starting line-up sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Having two brothers in the same county team is a rare enough occurrence in itself, but having both vying for the same position is an even bigger rarity.

But that's exactly the situation that Tommy and Padraig Walsh find themselves in with Kilkenny ahead of the start of the Leinster championship.

As the younger of the two, Padraig has always looked up to his older brother, who has won eight All-Ireland titles as well as nine All Stars.

Having only recently completed a degree in English and history at the University of Limerick, Padraig's focus has switched to the small matter of attempting to break into Brian Cody's championship side.

Hurling run deeps in the Walsh household – their sister Grace also represents Kilkenny in camogie. And while the comparisons will inevitably be made between Padraig and Tommy, the younger brother is keen to stand alone and make his own mark on the senior side.

DIFFICULTIES

"I suppose you'd hear it a bit alright, but you just try not to listen to it," Padraig says of the difficulties in shaking off the tag of being Tommy Walsh's younger brother.

"You just worry about your own game and try to get into the team and work the best you can. I'll just be trying to get on the team for the Offaly game."

Such is the depth of the Kilkenny squad at the moment, Tommy is no longer guaranteed a starting place, meaning that Cody may well have a selection dilemma between two brothers. But Padraig is keen to shrug off the notion that such a situation will arise in the coming weeks.

"Wing-back or midfield would probably be my favourite position and where I feel most comfortable.

"I only started there (wing-back) once in the league. There are plenty of others who played there as well, so there's plenty of competition. It's not just Tommy I have to worry about.

"There's a lot of competition for everyone, but you just have to forget about that now. There are three weeks until the championship and that's what we're focusing on now," he says.

Having an older brother with such an illustrious career has its benefits, but Padraig maintains that there is no sense of him being mentored through his early days as a Kilkenny senior hurler.

"I suppose we'd talk a bit after games. You'd look at what you did well and what you didn't do well and be trying to improve on your game.

"You wouldn't be asking for tips the whole time, though, you'd just talk about it a small bit. You're just trying to focus on your own game really."

Padraig has made rapid progress through the Kilkenny ranks and now that he is involved he is keen to stay there. The fact that the Kilkenny U-21s haven't been as successful in recent years as they have been in the past serves as an even bigger driving force for Padraig.

"It's a long time since I won a medal with Kilkenny – it was back in 2010. I was on the senior panel as well last year and I was in training the year before, so I did have to work my way in.

"From the very first league game, they started trying out new players, so you knew then that if you went well you were going to get a chance.

"It's not often you get a chance playing with Kilkenny, so you have to try to take it. That's what it's all about."

During his time in UL, Walsh studied alongside several of last year's All-Ireland-winning Clare side.

Despite admitting being envious of their success, he rejects the notion that Kilkenny will have to adapt their game to cope with the pace and power of Clare.

"I don't think we will, because every so often there are new teams who bring different tactics to it," he acknowledges.

"You saw Cork brought the running game, Tipperary brought movement into the game – looking to bring in space to the forwards.

"Now Clare have brought another kind of running game as well, so it's just part and parcel of it every few years.

"Obviously, teams are going to come up with different tactics and you're just going to have to do your best to stop it. They're the team you have to look to beat now this year."

The standard that Clare have set is an issue that can wait for another day. For now, Walsh's primary aim is to ensure that he is included for the Offaly game and he knows exactly what it'll take to do that.

"It's all about performing in training because Brian always picks on form. It doesn't matter if you are there for one year or 10 years – if you're going well in training you'll get a chance."

Those wise words are sure to resonate with both Walsh brothers in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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