Sunday 23 October 2016

All Ireland Hurling Final: Walter Walsh is still gripped by Friday fever

Walsh is preparing for an All-Ireland reprise against the same opposition, Galway, this Sunday
Walsh is preparing for an All-Ireland reprise against the same opposition, Galway, this Sunday

Walter was shocked by 2012 call-up ... and takes nothing for granted now

It was Walter Walsh's 'clipboard' moment. The Friday night when he discovered he'd be making his Kilkenny senior debut ... not in the Walsh Cup, or league, or even Leinster, but in an All-Ireland final replay.

Then he went and scored 1-3 from play: Roy of the Rovers meets Walter of the Walshes.

That was three years ago. Now Walsh is preparing for an All-Ireland reprise against the same opposition, Galway, this Sunday.


Cue the inevitable flashback question.

"We typically have meetings the Friday night before a game on Sunday," he reveals. "There's a clipboard there and the team is revealed ... when the page was flicked back, I didn't expect to see my name there. But it was. And I was quite shocked, as you can imagine."

As he harks back to that life-altering September in 2012, Walsh says he had no inkling, even from training, that a senior baptism was imminent.

The 6'4" powerhouse from Tullogher-Rosbercon had impressed for the county U21s that summer but, as he explains, there "wasn't much A v B played" in the three weeks between senior draw and replay.

"Teams were mixed up, and it was just good tough training. To be honest, I didn't think I'd be starting at all. I was hopeful maybe of coming on in the game - that's what I said to myself, I thought I was going well in training, getting a few scores."

There were a few butterflies on the bus journey to Croke Park, only not as much as "there should have been. I was quite relaxed about that game. I'd say I'd be even more nervous about the games now. I was just very relaxed, maybe because I didn't know - it was all new to me."

His corner-forward tour de force was duly recognised on The Sunday Game that night.

"It was very surreal at the time. I was in shock after the game, and wasn't even thinking about Man of the Match until CityWest, when someone said it to me. I was just delighted with winning an All-Ireland. That's what it's all about. The personal things come after, but as a team that's all you want."

Now he craves a third Celtic Cross in just four seasons. But the 24-year-old takes nothing for granted, especially ahead of those Friday night meetings. "The way I look at it, I still never expect to see my name. You'd be still nervous going into those meetings," he admits.

No wonder with the competition for places on Brian Cody's team. Walsh himself knows the score: he was among a trio of players dropped for last year's All-Ireland final replay against Tipperary, his replacement (John Power) playing a key goalscoring role in the subsequent victory.

"You see yourself targets at the beginning of the year, and mine was to play every game, start every game. And I have actually started every league and championship game this year," he points out. "But you can never be too sure."

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