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After dominating the 2000s, Kilkenny and Kerry intent on giving youth a chance

Tommy Walsh and Tomas Ó Sé have called for patience as youngsters are introduced in their respective counties.

KERRY AND KILKENNY dominated the Gaelic football and hurling landscape respectively in the 2000s, winning 12 senior All-Ireland titles between them during an extremely fruitful decade for both counties.

Michael Fennelly lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup Michael Fennelly lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2009. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

But the game has moved on and Cats haven’t lifted the Liam MacCarthy since 2015 while Sam Maguire last wintered in Kerry a year earlier. 

Both counties are currently in the process of integrating a batch of talented youngsters into their starting teams and a pair of legendary wing-backs have called for patience.

Earlier this week, Tomas Ó Sé stated that he didn’t see Kerry as All-Ireland contenders this season and encouraged the Kingdom faithful to give the new manager some time to embed the newcomers into his team.

“Kerry have to focus on the league and let Peter Keane put his mark on things,” he said.

“I still think there’s a couple of players coming through and there’s young players…The young lads coming through are doing outstandingly well.”

Sean O’Shea, David Clifford and Gavin White were introduced in 2018, with further prospects likely to be given the chance to stake a claim for the jersey during the upcoming Allianz League. 

Tommy Walsh and Tomas O'Se Wing-backs Tommy Walsh and Tomas Ó Sé were players of the month in September 2009. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Tommy Walsh has taken a similar tone with the young Cats, who ran eventual All-Ireland champions Limerick to two points in last year’s quarter-final.

“People tend to forget things move very quickly and you have to look at the make-up of that Kilkenny team. They’re very young, any young team until they go out and prove themselves, no one will really make them favourites,” said Walsh.

“People are giving them space, which we were all craving in Kilkenny. With youngsters, that’s the only way they can grow, if they’re given space out of the limelight. I thought they were brilliant last year at getting the best out of themselves.

This year by all accounts they’re training well, they’re enthusiastic and enjoying it. It’s exciting because they’re so young.

“The expectation is that they grow. We often heard – even when I was playing myself – of the ‘second-year syndrome’. So it was very important to keep it level-headed again, even though we had a great year last year, to keep the perspective.”

James Maher, Martin Keoghan, Pat Lyng, Billy Ryan and Richie Leahy are among the starlets who impressed under Cody last year. 

Martin Keoghan Martin Keoghan impressed for the Cats in his debut season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Once Ballyhale’s interests in the All-Ireland series is over, Kilkenny may call upon Adrian Mullen and other emerging players from the county champions to bolster their squad ahead of the Leinster championship.

“A lot of the new lads starting last year weren’t 23 or 24, they were only 19 or 20. It was much easier when we were hurling because we were coming into the team at 19 or 20, but you had ten or 15 lads that were between 26 and 30, who took all the pressure off you.

The nine-time All-Star continued: “If you go back and remember when Henry Shefflin came along, all the pressure was on DJ (Carey) at the time. Richie Hogan and TJ (Reid) came, all the pressure was on Henry.

With the lads now, they’re going to have to be given time. Go out and mind their own little spot. This year will be no different. As long as they’re getting the best out of themselves.

“You’d often hear the Dub footballers talking about it. That’s all we’re asking out of the Kilkenny lads.”

Conor Delaney arrives Conor Delaney and the Kilkenny team arrive ahead of their Walsh Cup meeting with Wexford. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Walsh’s younger brother Padraig has been Brian Cody’s choice at full-back over the past couple of seasons but has been sidelined recently with a knee injury. 

The elder Walsh believes another option for the number three position has emerged in O’Loughlin Gaels defender Huw Lawlor.

“(Padraig) is out at the moment with an injury, they’re going to get a chance to put someone in full back for a few big games, it’ll be interesting to see how they get on.

“Huw Lawlor played in (the Wild Geese Trophy game) in Sydney. He’s from the O’Loughlin’s club in Kilkenny and he’s performing very steadily and that’s what you want, someone who’s steady there and who minds your goalkeeper.

I’d say (Padraig’s) best position is wing-back. All of us were much better facing the ball, we like getting out on the ball.

“He wouldn’t be frustrated in there because he’s just delighted to be playing but I think, anyone that you’re talking to, I’d say the Kilkenny lads would acknowledge that he’s at his best out on the wing.” 

Kilkenny open their Division 1A league campaign against Cork on Sunday afternoon in Nowlan Park. 

Just over a week out from the 2019 Six Nations openers, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look at Ireland’s bid for another Grand Slam:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Kevin O'Brien

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