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Player Watch: How Kerry made a reborn Tommy Walsh the focal point of their attack

The former AFL player scored four points against Monaghan to continue his strong start to the season.

AFTER TAKING VICTORY for the fifth league game in succession, there are a host of positives for Kerry boss Peter Keane to glean at this stage of the season.

Tommy Walsh Tommy Walsh ahead of their clash against Monaghan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He clearly has the winning touch, having now won his last 22 competitive games since 2015 as manager of the minors and seniors. A number young players have impressed on their set-up to the senior ranks, particularly Dara Moynihan, Gavin O’Brien and Tomás Ó Sé.

Sean O’Shea is reaching new heights this season at centre-field, while Jack Sherwood has returned from the inter-county wilderness to shore up the full-back position. 

The most unexpected feature of the Keane-era so far has been Tommy Walsh’s stunning return to form. Former selector Mikey Sheehy admitted Kerry mishandled Walsh after he arrived back from Australia for the 2015 season. He departed the squad due to a lack of game-time following the 2016 league and that looked to be that.

Despite his strong form for Kerins O’Rahillys in the Kerry championship last season, given the emergence of several talented youngsters it was thought the 31-year-old’s time in the green and gold was over. 

Not alone is Walsh looking back to his best athletically and free of injury, but he’s become the focal point of the Kingdom attack. The former Sydney Swans player has clearly been a positive influence on the young players around him, in the same sort of way Kieran Donaghy had been up to his retirement.

Positioned at full-forward, Walsh contested the throw-in at the start of both halves – coming up with possession on both occasions.

His technique under the hop-ball was also notable. Walsh won a free in an early tussle with Darren Hughes, placing his left arm under the shoulder of Hughes and using his strength to push the midfielder out of his way.

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Walsh collected the ball and was fouled for an easy free for O’Shea to convert.

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While he spent most of his time at the edge of the square, Walsh did drop out to midfield on occasion when Kerry needed an ‘out ball’ or an extra body behind the ball.

However, he’s proving to be a formidable aerial threat upfront and as a result has become a key part of Kerry’s plan of attack. On a number of occasions the likes of Tom O’Sullivan and Moynihan picked out Walsh with long kick-passes inside.

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In total, the hosts targeted Walsh with 13 kick-passes inside the Monaghan half and he came up with the ball on all but four occasions – a 70%  success rate.

From Skitch (2)

His fetch early in the second-half over Wylie was a thing of beauty, where he used his knee to extend his hang-time behind the full-back.

Walsh scored four points, three from advanced marks and one fine effort from play off his left:

He was fouled for a first-half free that Sean O’Shea converted and was heavily involved in the move for two more scores in the opening period.

AFL teams spend a great deal of time working on their hand-passing and Walsh’s fast hands were evident in the build-up to this score from O’Shea.  

walsh5 Source: TG4

(Click here if you can’t view the clip above)

He had 25 possessions in total and completed every one of his 13 passes from hand. His shooting is steadily improving and Walsh missed two of his six shots at the posts – sending one wide and another short (from an advanced mark).

The advanced mark rule is made for a player like Walsh and the only downside for Kerry is that it won’t apply in this summer’s championship.

Copy of thankyou (3)

Kerry look on course to reach their third league final in four years and Walsh’s form has been a huge factor in their winning run this spring.

“He’s a big unit and he has good hands, no point having a lad with good hands and not playing him,” stated Keane after yesterday’s game.

With David Clifford, Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue still to come back into the fold, Keane will have some mouth-watering options available to him up front when everyone is fit.

Kerry won their opening five games by an average of under three points, which will give them confidence knowing they’ve come out the right side of several tight games. 

And Tommy Walsh’s second powerful display in a week might just be the best part of it all.

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Kevin O'Brien

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