Sunday 8 December 2019

Tommy had unique enthusiasm for the ball, for the fight

Diarmuid Lyng

It's hard to write about fellas' careers in the immediate aftermath of their announcement that it will be no more. That life is moving on. That they're content with the stamp they've left on the game they love.

How in God's name can you possibly capture the essence of any player, especially Tommy Walsh?

So I won't delve in to when I came across him first, playing against UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup in 2001, as he scalded his clubmate Paul Doheny for the whole game, regardless of where the ball was.

He had this trick of catching the man's hand, as hurls and limbs flailed, before at the last split-second, and I'm talking milliseconds, he'd let go and catch the ball. It's a foul, granted, but poise like that should always go unpunished.

What really endeared me to Tommy was a throwaway comment. There's no elixir here, no secret to how he managed to play the way he played.

Rather the Kilkenny hurling trademark, genius in its simplicity. In his outlook.

We were queuing in Amsterdam airport to go to Abu Dhabi for the Martin Donnelly Interprovincial finals in 2008. A story was developing of a couple of hurlers that were dropped late in the day to allow for a couple of extra seats for 'suits' to spread the hurling gospel, or something like that.

Lads were p*ssed off. I was in Tommy's company when the story broke. I was disgusted, typically. Tommy's reply was simple. "I'm sure they work very hard for a trip like this too," he said.


No conspiracy. No one any better than anyone else.

I don't think Tommy was ever the fittest on the field. He definitely wasn't posting the top numbers in the gym. But he seemed to have a direct route to an enthusiasm, for life, for the ball, for the fight, that is unparalleled in the modern era.

Sports psychologists evangelise positivity, and the rest of us ran around in circles getting in the way of ourselves truly finding it.

And Tommy was busy plucking balls out of the sky while we were.

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