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'Gives the rest of us space to do damage' - Crokes forwards benefiting from Walsh
Shane Horan has benefitted hugely from having a player of Walsh’s calibre in the Crokes’ forward line.

KILMACUD CROKES FORWARD Shane Horan has hailed the impact of Shane Walsh on the team’s attacking unit ahead of their Leinster final on Sunday.

shane-walsh-after-the-game Bryan Keane / INPHO Shane Walsh in action for Kilmacud Crokes. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

The Footballer of the Year nominee joined the Stillorgan side in August following a controversial transfer move from his home club Kilkerrin-Clonberne in Galway.

After reaching the All-Ireland SFC final with the Tribesmen, Walsh brought his impressive form to his new Dublin club and kicked four points in the Dublin county final as Crokes retained their crown.

His arrival has proven to be all the more significant following the loss of Paul Mannion to an ankle injury, and the other members of Kilmacud’s attacking force are grateful for the range of qualities he brings to their squad.

“When it was first announced,” Horan begins, “you’re kind of excited. Obviously there’s a part of you that’s fearful about another lad coming into the forwards. When you’re playing in the forward line with him, and I always go back to Paul Mannion with this, the other backs have to be wary of those two guys and it gives the rest of us a little bit more space to do a bit of damage.

“If even our defender has to focus away at all, it buys you a bit of time. Additionally, his training and his thoughts from his time with Galway, tactically he’s quite good. It’s a different set of eyes. We had a set group for a while there where we saw things the same way. To get a new set of eyes in for how we press a kick, or how we shape up in attack, it’s good to have him involved from that perspective.”

Walsh was the target of many critics during that transfer, with many arguing that a club of Kilmacud Crokes’ stature would be gaining an unfair advantage by having Walsh in their ranks. 

Walsh’s club Kilkerrin-Clonberne were devastated by the news when the move was first reported, although no formal objection was lodged by the Galway outfit. 

The dial has certainly moved on from that furore as Walsh continues to illuminate the senior club competition, and Horan insists that while the “super club” narrative continues to be attached to Crokes, there was no major storm over the Galway star’s arrival.

“People were calling us a super club before he joined, and there was always going to be something, especially after the previous year we’d had and losing the final. We only had the goal of getting back and winning Dublin was the big thing.

“He’s [Walsh] come along and it’s well documented that he’s embedded himself well [with the Crokes]. He’s coming along to hurling matches, Ladies games, and meeting up for food and coffee. He couldn’t have made more of an effort and we’re happy to have him.”

Dublin’s three-time All-Star Mannion is still a major absentee for Crokes heading into their Leinster final against Westmeath champions The Downs this weekend. His injury is set to keep him on the sidelines for three months but Horan says the star forward is contributing to the group in other ways.

“He’s on the mend but I don’t think there’s any plan for him to be back soon.

“Any team meeting he has great input from his experience. And even as forwards, when look to talk about things as a group, not only from being on the pitch but what he has seen the rest of us do.

“He was good at that towards the end of last year when he was injured and he kept that going again. Steering us in the right direction, talking to lads individually. He’s definitely having a good impact.”

aib-gaa-club-leinster-hurling-and-football-provincial-finals Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE Kilmacud Crokes forward Shane Horan. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Horan’s own personal football story makes for interesting reading. His parents are from Offaly, and in 2019, after trying out for a few development squads in Dublin, he transferred to the Faithful County. His uncle was instrumental to the move.

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“I don’t know if he had a few pints on him or not, but he was chatting to whoever was involved and said, ‘Oh Shane’d be up for it,” explains Horan, who is also a distant cousin of Shane Lowry’s.

“But after we won and there was actually something firm, I said I’d throw my hat in with them. I was very lucky to do it for a couple of years. I’m grateful that I did do it, it’s a great bunch of guys and they’re people I’m still in touch with.”

Horan is no longer able to make that commitment to Offaly since starting a new job, and is fully focused on his obligations to Crokes. The defeated All-Ireland finalists are out to defend another title this Sunday when they put their provincial crown on the line.

It will be a unique day for the club as their hurlers are also in action in the Leinster final as part of a double-header at Croke Park. After losing the 2021 All-Ireland decider to Kilcoo, the footballers will ultimately see this game as another step towards avenging that heartache.

“In the changing room everyone was obviously quite down but [manager] Robbie [Brennan] said something like ‘the next final is in 12 months and we’ll be back here’. That’s all he needed to say at the time and that’s all that was said.”

Shane Horan was speaking ahead of the 2022 AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final on Sunday, 4 December at Croke Park. The AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championships features some of #TheToughest players from communities all across Ireland. 

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