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04th Jan 2023

“At that particular time, I was trying to make Australia work” – Walsh making most of his second chance

Niall McIntyre

Tommy Walsh says that the long-ball-in will be one of Kerins O’Rahilly’s tactics as they take on Kilmacud Crokes this Sunday in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Why wouldn’t it be? Why change a winning formula?

The Munster semi-final and final were both tight encounters for the Tralee side, against Éire Óg Ennis and Newcastle West respectively, and they both had one thing in common.

They were both decided by crucial Tommy Walsh goals.

Both of those Tommy Walsh goals were created in the same manner by the same tactic – there’s no secret here – from a long balls-in from one of the team’s playmakers-in-chief, Jack Savage.

David Moran is just as capable of putting it on a sixpence from a distance and with Tommy – all 6 ft 6 of him – able to compete with the best and biggest of them inside – it’s something of a no-brainer.

We asked Walsh about the route-one tactic today.

“It’s a tactic for us, of course,” says Walsh “and if the likes of Barry John Keane are around me and I’m able to win it, it can be dangerous,” he adds ahead of this Sunday’s semi-final.

“The days of just turning around from the middle of the field and lumping it in will work sometimes,” he adds, “but more often not, and particularly the way defences are set up with bodies back and often someone spare (it’s difficult), but for the likes of Jack Savage or David Moran, they can generally hit the right spot so it’s about getting into the right areas and then it’s up to me to win it.”

Walsh has been playing alongside Moran for as long as he can remember, and he says it’s never been anything but a joy.

“I don’t think there are too many guys around the place who can kick the ball like David.

“I’ve played with him most of my life and I’m very lucky to have him out the field, and I’m sure a lot of forwards would say the same. He can generally hit the right spot and hit it from distance.

“So if he’s on song the next day, it bodes well for our whole forward line, and that will give us a good platform to perform.”

It certainly did the last day, when they won the Strand Road club won their first ever Munster club title and Walsh says this was an emotional occasion not just for his father Sean, who played for the club for years, but for everyone involved.

“Dad’s been going to our games for a long time obviously, with limited enough success. Not just my father obviously – he’s a staunch Kerins O’Rahilly’s man – but there’s a lot of guy’s fathers or mothers or brothers or sisters have been heavily involved in the club over the last while.

“Just to see the emotion coming from the Stand, that what makes it really special. Because you can see how much it means to them. Obviously, it means a lot to us because we’ve been involved with it.

“That’s what makes club football different to any other type of football. It’s the people that you grew up with it and you see people that have been involved in it so heavily over such a long period of time.

“Days like that are so rare for 99% of clubs so for us to get over the line in a Munster final just before Christmas was brilliant. On the day, I wasn’t able to describe the feeling. And I still can’t. You just bottle it up and release it another time.”

It was a quiet Christmas in that sense. Tame celebrations and cancelled trips, but Walsh wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You’re dealing with a group of guys in their 20s and you have the festive period, and different things on so we had to sacrifice a lot of things. A few fellas had holidays planned so they had to park them and stay around for the Christmas period which was a big sacrifice to make. The pitches weren’t great but there is a buzz there.”

Walsh missed their last Munster club final – a defeat to Clare’s Kilmurray Ibrickane in 2009 – but he was never going to miss this one.

“I think I said this on the day of the Munster final,I probably had tunnel vision back then. I knew I was going to Australia on a particular date and once I had left, I probably put the club scene to the side.

“At that particular time, I was trying to make Australia work and me leaving during my first pre-season over there to play that game wouldn’t have been ideal, but thankfully anyway, I got another chance this year.”

He took that chance. Now another one beckons…

4 January 2023; Tommy Walsh of Kerins O’Rahillys, Kerry, pictured ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Senior Club Championship Semi-Final, which takes place this Sunday, January 8th at Croke Park at 1.30pm. Now in its 32nd year supporting the GAA Club Championships, AIB is extremely proud to once again celebrate the communities that play such a role in sustaining our national games. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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