It's often forgotten that Tommy Walsh began his career with the same stardom and promise as David Clifford 1 month ago

It's often forgotten that Tommy Walsh began his career with the same stardom and promise as David Clifford

Tommy Walsh announced his retirement from county football, but his career began in a similar nature to David Clifford.

It might not seem like it, but back in 2008, Tommy Walsh was viewed the same way as many GAA fans currently view David Clifford - a once in a generation talent.

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That's not to say Walsh isn't still held in high esteem, but his initial impact when he burst onto the scene led many to believe that he would dominate Croke Park for years to come.

At just 20-years-old, the 6'5 full forward broke into the Kerry team, forming a partnership with Kieran Donaghy that was so prolific they became known as the "Twin Towers."

This was similar to Clifford's impact in 2019, when despite being so young, it seemed that the whole weight of The Kingdom rested on his youthful shoulders.

Walsh in '08 and Clifford in '19, both played key roles in leading their teams to All-Ireland finals, but fell short at the final hurdle.

It could be argued however, that Walsh's breakthrough was more impressive as he had to break into a forward line that was filled with All-Ireland winning experience, such as Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin, and Kieran Donaghy.

When Clifford came onto the scene, he was the Messiah, someone who could lead Kerry out off the darkness and back into the shining, reflective light of the Sam Maguire.

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Walsh was viewed instead as an unexpected, but hugely welcomed asset to an already legendary side. A replacement for players that didn't even need replaced, a symbol for longevity and continued dominance.

Mickey Harte managed the Tyrone side that beat Kerry in that '08 final, but a lot of it was down to meticulous preparation to stop the Twin Towers.

Harte wanted Justin and Joe McMahon to mark them, because of their own physical prowess, and prepared them for the battle of their lives by making them mark powerhouses such as Sean Cavanagh and Collie Holmes in the practise games.

He even went as far as playing his goalkeepers up front in the in-house matches, encouraging the high ball to dropped into them so the McMahon brothers could get used to competing with the leaping giants.

They did succeed in doing so, but when you think that all of this preparation was to nullify a 20-year-old, in a team that boasted Colm Cooper and the O'Se brothers, then it speaks volumes of the threat he possessed.

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After picking up The Young Player of the Year award in '08, he went one better the following year, winning an All-Ireland title and kicking four points from play in the final, two from each foot.

10 years later, it would be Clifford picking up The Young Player of the Year award, although the main prize in Gaelic football still eludes him.

The GAA world was at Walsh's feet, but we lost him to Australia where he was signed by Sydney Swans, and after five years in the AFL he returned to The Kingdom a lesser player, due to an extremely serious hamstring injury that threatened to end his career.

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Despite five years away from the game, losing a yard of pace due to the injury, and having to readjust to playing in a less successful Kerry team, his talent, physicality and determination meant that he still played a big role for his county.

Now more of an impact sub, Walsh played right up until last summer, seeing a career spanning from 2007 to 2021, a hugely impressive feat alone.

However, his peak came far too early in the green and gold, as 2007 - 2009, were his golden years, and he never really became the all-conquering player that his youth and ability promised he could be.

Clifford is yet to win an All-Ireland, but his performances to date echo that of his former county teammate in his prime.

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The Kingdom will be hoping however, that the Fossa freak of nature, will be leading his county to the many All-Irelands that his potential suggests is possible.