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SHINING A LIGHT: On behalf of Electric Ireland, Darkness Into Light ambassador and former Kilkenny hurler Tommy Walsh is encouraging the public to come together, while staying apart, by getting up at 5:30am on May 9 to watch the sunrise to show solidarity with those impacted by suicide. Photo: Inpho

SHINING A LIGHT: On behalf of Electric Ireland, Darkness Into Light ambassador and former Kilkenny hurler Tommy Walsh is encouraging the public to come together, while staying apart, by getting up at 5:30am on May 9 to watch the sunrise to show solidarity with those impacted by suicide. Photo: Inpho

©INPHO/James Crombie

SHINING A LIGHT: On behalf of Electric Ireland, Darkness Into Light ambassador and former Kilkenny hurler Tommy Walsh is encouraging the public to come together, while staying apart, by getting up at 5:30am on May 9 to watch the sunrise to show solidarity with those impacted by suicide. Photo: Inpho

The dominance of the great Kilkenny team of the noughties has already translated to management as they flood the county scene but Tommy Walsh has "no interest" in joining the long list of former Cats patrolling the sidelines.

Laois boss Eddie Brennan, Offaly manager Michael Fennelly and Kildare supremo David Herity are just a handful among a long list which have played under 11-time All-Ireland-winning manager Brian Cody before following in his footsteps in retirement.

Walsh has never hidden his passion for hurling but management and the various responsibilities which it encompasses doesn't attract him. His attention is solely focussed on developing underage talent in Tullaroan.

Free bird

"I've absolutely no interest whatsoever. At the moment, anyway. When I'm hurling, I love just going out and playing. You're like a free bird there for a couple of hours. When you're managing a team, you have to remember everything," Walsh said.

"You have to organise physios, buses, you're trying to organise training sessions, coaches. The better organised you are, the better you're going to be. That's not what I enjoy about the game. I enjoy going out and letting it flow. I'm involved in our own club with the underage.

"I love going down to the field and a young lad at the start of the year isn't able to hit the ball off his weak hand but by the end of it, you might see him at the end of a training session and he puts the ball over the bar and you give him the thumbs up or a clap on the back. And he's smiling going off home. That's what I love.

"So I don't ever see myself getting into management. I'm after diving into the whole world of the underage. It's not trying to give back to the club - I just love it. You'd nearly know every young lads' date of birth at this stage from three years of age until 15 or 16. That's the world I love and I couldn't see myself ever leaving it."

The nine-time All-Ireland winner is "50-50" on whether inter-county action will resume this year amid the Coronavirus pandemic and he longs for the day when supporters can anticipate a game and the range of emotions which fans experience.

"That's what we're missing the most, it's not the crowds going to the matches, it's the two or three-week lead-up. 'Will our team win? Will our team lose?', and then the feeling after, exhilaration or desolation.

"They're the sort of feelings that we're missing. Do I think there's going to be a Championship this year? You'd hope there will but we'll have to abide by the guidelines. There's people's lives that are at risk so I'd say it's 50-50 at this stage."

Walsh, 37, helped Tullaroan to All-Ireland intermediate club success in January from full-forward and with the club game mooted to return when restrictions are relaxed, he doesn't see social distancing in the stands as a stumbling block but "the challenge is the players".

"We'd manage the social distancing with the crowd, it would be a challenge but it is something you could overcome and you could work with. There is so much media now and live streams, I'm sure the country would love to watch matches, whether it is club or county," the 2009 Hurler of the Year said.

"The big challenge will be the players themselves. It is such a contact sport. Imagine if you were marking a tight corner-back, he's going to be with you for 60 minutes if he's good. That's the big challenge. We'd overcome the stadium challenge. The challenge is the players."

Walsh is working from home and keeping busy with "family WhatsApp quizzes" while the excitement in his voice can be heard when he talks about doing outdoor activities in his garden until dark and re-acquainting himself with childhood games.

"I don't come inside into the house until half 9 or 10 o'clock most nights. I've played more games of 'Tip the can' over the last four weeks I'd say than I did in my whole childhood. It's a great game and it's getting even better," he joked.

Tribute

His younger sister Grace, however, is on the frontline working as a clinical nurse in St Vincent's Hospital and Walsh paid tribute to the Kilkenny camogie star and other healthcare professionals who are "rescuing the country" in its hour of need.

"Grace is that bit younger so she wouldn't be in that high-risk category age-wise. Obviously when she is in contact with people through the hospital, it is going to be a worry for ourselves. We don't think like that," he said.

"We try to think positive. The way we look at it, she is doing a great service, as all the nurses are for our country.

"This is their time and by God are they producing it."

On behalf of Electric Ireland, Tommy Walsh is calling on the public to support Pieta House's urgent appeal for donations and to join them for 'Sunrise' at 5:30am on Saturday May 9 to mark the occasion.