'I've been dreaming of this day my whole life' - Shane Walsh lost the game but he's inspired a generation
You can give him the ball anywhere, anywhere, anywhere.
Then the inevitable happens. It doesn't matter who's behind him, what's in front of him or how the whole thing looks around him, because, even if it looks crowded or hopeless or like a blind alley, it doesn't change the fact. Shane Walsh is going to kick a point.
David Clifford was sensational on Sunday. He won two breath-takers of marks, kicked some crucial frees and, as per, he slotted some gorgeous points from open play. He is the best and, unquestionably, the most consistent footballer in Ireland and, it will only be right, in the coming weeks, when he's crowned as the Footballer of the Year.
But he should not have won man-of-the-match on Sunday. Because Shane Walsh was the best player on the pitch. The only way you wouldn't agree is if you were watching a different game.
The Kilkerrin-Clonberne man put in one of those exhibitions in the All-Ireland final that, by the end of it, whether you're old or young, from Kerry or Galway, whether you're cynical or believing, regardless of any of that, it was all the one.
Because the hair was standing on the back of your neck anyway and, as you talked it out like we all do, over tea or after dinner or in the office or wherever else, in the days that followed, you just couldn't stop talking about Shane Walsh and all he did on Sunday.
Have to mention this: I asked Shane Walsh to scribble his name for my young fella after Sunday’s All-Ireland. Despite his disappointment he wrote ⬇️ what a gent! 👏👏 It’s on the bedroom wall now. @Galway_GAA pic.twitter.com/z7w8o0KUhW
— Andy Watters (@andyirishnews) July 25, 2022
Walsh had been quiet, by his own standards, in the quarter and semi-finals and maybe that's why there was more talk about Comer and Clifford coming into the final but to Sean Cavanagh's credit, he called this one. He tipped Walsh for a big performance before the game and in doing so, he rubbed Pat Spillane up the wrong way.
"If I was Shane Walsh," Cavanagh said on The Sunday Game, twenty minutes before throw-in, "I would feel a little bit offended because all the talk has been about Comer and Clifford but Walsh on his day has probably more skill than both of them. And that's probably a big statement. Maybe he isn't as consistent..."
"This man kicks frees left foot and right foot, his goal finishing is phenomenal," he continued. "If Walsh goes off today, I think Galway could have a serious chance and I think he could be primed to go off. I'm not totally convinced that Tom O'Sullivan is going to be able to stop him if Shane Walsh arrives here today in big form.
Pat Spillane didn't let it slide and, on his final day in the studio, he came out all guns blazing after the Tyrone man. "Conor McCloskey did a brilliant man-marking job on him, with pace, pace, pace. And Tom O'Sullivan can do that.
Shane Walsh or David Clifford. Who is more skilful?
Pat Spillane and Sean Cavanagh couldn’t agree on it.
(Clip via The Sunday Game) pic.twitter.com/df3ADC9oj8
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 26, 2022
'He would really have enjoyed it more than anything'
But maybe Ciaran Whelan was right. Let's just appreciate the two of them. And that's exactly what they did on The GAA Hour.
"I would have been critical of Shane Walsh coming into the game," said Eamon McGee, "but for him to step up like that, to bring the game to Kerry, that's a testament to him and it's great for him too. Because we all know the player that he is and the ability that he has. And for him to showcase that during the final, you've got to give him the plaudits."
As a former team-mate of Walsh's, Finian Hanley said that his 'carefree' attitude helped him on the big day.
"I know my wife met him at the gym during the week, she was like 'jesus, you're awful relaxed.' Someone said to him 'are you not nervous?' He said to them 'I've been dreaming of this day my whole life,' do you know, because he's so obsessed with football. This is the biggest day of his life. He would really have enjoyed it more than anything. I seen the president shaking his hand and he was just having a bit of craic and laughing."
"He was so relaxed and we talk about his carefree attitude all the time and when we were playing with him, it annoyed us at times, you're like 'you're a superstar man, will ya come on, come on come on? But maybe that carefree attitude helped him yesterday because he was just so carefree and when he got that bit more room, he was phenomenal. I don't think anyone was going to stop him yesterday.
"I was obviously there supporting Kerry but there's something so enjoyable about a lad realising all of his potential on the big stage. It was just incredible," added Darran O'Sullivan.
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