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Sheehy: Kerry made 'major mistake' managing Tommy Walsh's return from AFL in 2015

“We probably should have let him go and play with his club for maybe six months,” said former selector Mikey Sheehy.

MIKEY SHEEHY BELIEVES Kerry mishandled the return of Tommy Walsh from the AFL to the county set-up in 2015.

Peter Keane with Tommy Walsh Peter Keane with Tommy Walsh before the opening league game against Tyrone. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Walsh tore his hamstring off the bone near the end of his five-year stint in Australia and struggled to make an impact after rejoining the Kerry panel four years ago.

In 2016, he opted off the panel prior to the start of the championship, citing a lack of game-time. But after enjoying a strong club campaign with Kerins O’Rahillys, Walsh was recalled to the squad by new Kerry boss Peter Keane.

The forward, who turns 31 later this month, kicked a point off the bench against Dublin after arriving onto the field as a half-time substitute on Saturday night.   

“Tommy just walked off the panel himself in fairness to him and I think we made a major mistake with Tommy as a management (team) in 2015 when he came back,” says former selector Sheehy.

We probably should have let him go and play with his club for maybe six months, but we kind of threw him in at the deep end at the start of the league. 

“I don’t think he started the first game, but he came on in games and you could see he was struggling a bit. He was outstanding playing club football last year and he’s a plus as well.

“He’s a big man, particularly with Donaghy gone now he’s either a plan A or a plan B, depending on who you play.”

The GAA Launches New Digital Archive with support from the BAI Kerry legend Mikey Sheehy was in Croke Park at the launch of the GAA's new digital archive. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Another player to return to the green and gold was Jack Sherwood, who has become a surprise choice at full-back. Sherwood opened the scoring for Kerry with a cracking point in Tralee and has looked sharp the opening three games of the league.

“People were surprised he was played at full-back but that’s Peter Keane. To be fair to him, he’s innovative. He played centre-back with us, stroke wing back. Actually the last time we played Dublin in a league game in Killarney in 2015, he was centre-back and he got man of the match.

He drifted out of it, yeah. With East Kerry he was very good. He’s a fine athlete, he’s young, he’s 27 or 28 and he’s probably only peaking now. He is a plus as well at present.”

Sheehy won eight All-Ireland medals during his legendary playing career and was part of the Kerry side that came desperately close to completing the five-in-a-row in 1982.

“Our losing five in a row, stuck in our craw and probably still does – well, it doesn’t so much now but it did for a long, long time. But I would have always made the point that we lost the Munster final in 1983 to a last minute goal.

“Then we came back and won three more, most of that team. I don’t think we’d have won that three-in-a-row if we’d won the five-in-a-row.

I take my hat off to Dublin. They’ve been the best there’s been for the last number of years. I admire them.

“I am only talking about me again personally, but it does get into your psyche.

“I would probably said that before that (1982 final) – I missed a penalty at a crucial point in the game – I would have said that day that I just didn’t feel right myself.

“And I kind of felt it was tension thing that I felt drained.I felt after about 10 minutes in the game, ‘Jesus Christ, have I done any training for this game, do you know.’

“I was stuck, stuck to the floor, it was just a tension, drained. It was a mental thing. Different players. I think the players nowadays are totally different tuned to the way we were.”

Mikey Sheehy Former Kingdom selector Mikey Sheehy. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

He hasn’t seen any sign of this Dublin side weakening, despite them suffering two defeats in their opening three games of the Division 1 campaign.

“No. Not yet. Not even last Saturday night. They had a good few of their All-Ireland team but they brought on Jack McCaffrey, Michael Darragh Macauley, Paul Flynn but you were missing the two – Ciaran Kilkenny and Stephen Cluxton.

“To me, their key men would be, number one Cluxton obviously. Ciaran Kilkenny. Brian Fenton. Jonny Cooper. And James McCarthy. There’s your spine. Every one of those guys, you’d put them up with the best players that ever played the game.

“Outside of Dublin, I think Kerry have the best forwards in the game. Even last year, I thought we had a very good forwards, just didn’t perform. I think they have serious, serious talent up front.

“The one thing I’d say about Peter Keane, Donie Buckley is involved but a lot of people forget Tommy Griffin is there as well who was involved with Peter at minor. Tommy is a very good defensive coach as well. It would have been an area we were slated for, particularly in the league that we conceded 10 goals.

“But I noticed, particularly in the Tyrone game, very solid at the back. Played quite defensively. Whereas last Saturday night they took the handbrake off a bit more and drove on. Peter is obviously working on systems, looking down the road. Even though he wouldn’t admit it, he is looking down the road. Big time.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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