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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Walsh: With all those retirements this year hitting Kilkenny the rest of us had a point to prove

Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh (Sportsfile)
Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh (Sportsfile)

Part of the problem with the ubiquity of Kilkenny's success in the Cody era is that as one All-Ireland begets another, some of the context is forgotten.

A year ago, they ended the shortest renaissance in sporting history.

They won an All-Ireland a year after Clare had apparently changed their sport irreversibly.

Men with stacks of All-Ireland medals said there and then that enough was enough.

The greatest of them all, Henry Shefflin checked out.

Ditto JJ Delaney, the man who Cody deemed worthy of the title 'the greatest defender I've seen' and the indomitable Tommy Walsh.

A year on and they're champions again.

New faces. Same Kilkenny.

"Sure it was great, particularly when you hear at the start of the year that you're being written off," says Pádraig Walsh, one of the fresher of this year's winning group.

"Lads were saying we hadn't a hope and that we were starting from scratch because of all the lads retiring.

"Lads are probably thinking, 'look, we don't want people thinking we only won an All-Ireland because of the lads'.

"Obviously they played a massive role in the All-Ireland of 2014, but we felt we had a point to prove.

"Particularly after the League. To win another All-Ireland, that 20 minutes after that final whistle goes is a feeling you can't beat and all you want to do is get back that feeling again.

"When you win an All-Ireland all you want to do is win another one.

"When that whistle goes, those 20 minutes is a feeling you don't want to forget."

Whether any of the quintet left too soon is irrelevant now because Kilkenny still managed to field an All-Ireland winning team but Walsh reckons: "I would have said all of them had another year in them.

Massive

"Even when they came back with their clubs this year they were all massive.

"Nearly all of their clubs had way better years than they had the previous year.

"JJ's club Johnstown had their best year in years.

"Last year they beat us in a relegation final and this year they won the League in the senior.

"It's great for the clubs to have those lads back, but I would say that they all definitely had more in them because they're flying it.

"In fairness, they were on the road a long time."

So not only are Kilkenny All-Ireland champions now, but they'll take on the challenge of another three-in-a-row with the same battalion as that which secured the second of their back-to-back.

"It was different last year so it's nice this year that we have no retirements," Walsh acknowledges.

Going forever

"Look, you never like to see anyone leave and you'd love if they could all stay going forever.

"But it's nice to know we'll be looking forward to having everyone back."

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