Tommy Walsh celebrates. Ken Sutton/INPHO

Tommy Walsh: 'One of the best days of my career'

The veteran savours Munster Club Championship glory with Kerins O’Rahillys having missed the 2009 final after moving to Australia.

FOR TOMMY WALSH, winning a Munster title with Kerins O’Rahillys means all the more after missing their previous final appearance in 2009.

Walsh led the Strand Road side to their first-ever win in a Munster Club Championship match in the ’09 quarter-final against Clonakilty but missed the rest of that campaign after moving to Australia to begin an AFL career with St Kilda.

They lost that final to a last-minute Kilmurry-Ibrickane point after having their own winning goal disallowed due to a square ball, with Walsh, in those pre-streaming days, tuning in on Radio Kerry in Melbourne.

“It was heart-breaking but I was a young fella. I was doing my own thing. I probably didn’t realise the significance of it then but to get the chance at this stage of my career when you certainly do realise how important it is and more so to the people, you saw what it meant to the people that ran onto the pitch afterwards. They’re what makes it all worthwhile,” said Walsh after the final whistle.

“The last one was 13 years ago, that was our first Munster final ever, we had to wait a long time to get the second – God only knows when we’ll get the chance again so we’ve to try and make the most of it.

“Today is one of the best days of my career, to be honest. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve had some great days, some tough days as well, but to win with Kerins O’Rahillys, guys that you grew up with, a lot of them are a lot younger than me of course but the likes of David Moran, Con Barrett, the older guys, to win something like today with them and to see people’s faces afterwards, how much it means to them…

“People on Strand Road have been starved of success over the last 10 to 15 years so to win our Club Championship this year and to push on and win the Munster, it’s an amazing feeling. We’ll certainly enjoy this one.”

Now 34, the chance for a second Munster campaign has been grabbed with both hands after one-point wins over Éire Óg Ennis and Newcastle West in Saturday’s final; the latter victory thanks in the main to Walsh’s fielding at the edge of the square.

He scored one goal and set up another for Barry John Keane in the space of five minutes after half-time. He says that second-half bombardment wasn’t so much a tactical change as one influenced by the conditions.

The lads were saying at half-time that it was very difficult to kick into that side with the sun and I actually felt I had a bit of space inside so if the ball come came in and I could get my hands to it, I might be able to get one or two breaks or get the boys around me into the game.

“The second half was a bit easier. Jack Savage, David Moran, they’re fantastic kickers of the ball so if they have a yard or two outside and you have a yard on your man, they’ll find you.

“With the goal, they blocked it down, it could easily have went wide (instead, it bounced into the net). The margins are so small and we’ve been on the wrong side of that for so many years and we’ve been on the right side of it over the past couple of games.

“We’ve won the last couple of games by a point so to be on the right side of those breaks and to get the bit of luck is what you need sometimes and thankfully we got it. We’ll enjoy tonight but the focus will switch very quickly to an All-Ireland semi-final after Christmas and we have to make the most of it.”

The Strand Road approach of focusing on the Kerry Club Championship, rather than the primary competition, the Kerry County Championship, which has been dominated by the East Kerry divisional team in recent years, has paid dividends, granting them a back-door route into Munster.

It was a decision tailored, in part, by the knowledge that the likes of Jack Savage and Cormac Coffey would be spending much of the autumn in Dubai, while Gavin O’Brien is working in New York.

“We knew that they’d be around for the Club (Championship) so we did really focus on it and thankfully it paid off. There was a couple of close calls in that as well.

The County, of course, it’s the major competition in Kerry but we knew we were probably going to be under the pump for it so credit to Will (Harmon, manager) and the team, they got us right at the right times of the year to perform when we needed to and today was no different.

“We probably made things hard for ourselves at times, we were probably a bit loose on the ball when we had the game under control which allowed them to come back into it but, look, it’s all about winning. Thankfully we came out the right side of it. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

The biggest challenge lies ahead: Kilmacud Crokes in an All-Ireland semi-final on the first weekend in January.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Kilmacud over the past few months and they’re an unbelievable outfit. They’re well structured, they’ve some unbelievable quality players, but at this stage of the competition, anything can happen there.

“They’ll obviously be hot favourites against us but that’s fine. We’ll work hard over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a good look at the games they’ve played, and hopefully put in a good performance.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel