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'The most remarkable player I've ever worked with.'

THROUGH wave after crashing wave of tribune and even beneath the remarkable chronology of titles and Allstars won, one fact lies unargued: no player could electrify Croke Park like Tommy Walsh when he swept onto a ball.

"He is probably the most remarkable player I've ever worked with, really," Kilkenny trainer Mick Dempsey told the Herald after yesterday morning's announcement that the Tullaroan man would hurl for Kilkenny no more.

"He's the very essence of what you would look for in sport.

"Skillful - utterly - and totally committed, determined, courageous and very much a team player.

"Some of the performances he has given in Croke Park have been some of the best performances anywhere by a sports person."

"With Tommy, what you saw was all about the man.

"I remember him saying one time that sometimes players complain about having to go training. And Tommy said: 'I would walk to training every night.'

"He just loved hurling. He just epitomised everything the GAA is about, everything Kilkenny are about."

The record says it all and thus, is worth repeating.

Nine All-Irelands. Nine All Stars in succession and a lone Hurler of the Year award in 2009.

"His fielding ability - which requires such skill and determination and bravery…he played like an underage player," Dempsey explained.

"It was just whole-hearted, skilful bravery.

"That sort of sheer will to win the ball, to get on it. All he wanted was the ball. And that's very much Tommy.

"If we played a match in training, he just wanted to be on the ball. Even last year, when he wasn't on the team, he just encouraged everybody else.

"He would drive on the second team. That boyish enthusiasm. He just took it to the level everybody would like to be at."

His potential, from an early age, was undoubted and now, the day after inter-county retirement, he is surely one of the very few to wring every last drop of achievement from such rich promise.

Walsh won Leinster and All-Ireland colleges medals in 1999 in St Kieran's as a diminutive full-back but claimed All Stars in a variety of roles, underpinning his reputation as a ferocious, yet highly skilful, hurler.

Midfield in 2003, left-corner-back in 2004, left-half-forward in 2005, left-half-back in 2006 and right-half-back five years running, Walsh is the only All Star in hurling or football to be selected in four different lines on a team.

Though consigned to a peripheral role this season, his influence was understood to be acute and enthusiasm never once waned.

The social media flood of tributes from team mates, both current and former, shows how universally popular he was with his own.

Those from past opponents merely demonstrate his legacy.

"I think everybody could identify with it, his physicality," Dempsey reckoned. "He just got stuck into everything.

"He's remakable. He's a huge loss to a game.

"There was no holding back. None. Just to watching him in training was a joy.

"His reading of the game was exceptional as well.

"He brought performances to a level that people just dream of."

"He would remind you of Roy of the Rovers or someone like that.

"He was a hero, a character, a legend. Plus, he just had that unique skill," Dempsey concluded. "He's a once-off really."


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