ON FRIDAY NIGHT Kilkenny showed their hand ahead of yesterday’s All-Ireland final and the team selection was a thought-provoking one.
The common consensus may have been that Cody would stick with the established attacking sextet that featured in the drawn match against Galway but instead the Cats boss was bold and imaginative in the starting fifteen that he picked.
Walter Walsh had been cast in the role of an observer in the 2012 championship until yesterday when he was thrown into the fray for his first taste of senior action for Kilkenny. The tall robust attacker had caught the eye at minor level in winning an All-Ireland medal in 2008 and in the Cats U21 team that reached the All-Ireland final against Clare this month.
This was a different stage that he was being exposed to yet the magnitude of the occasion proved no deterrent to the 21 year-old. He was in sparkling form from the outset. Walsh set the tone with a withering shoulder on Galway’s Johnny Coen, notching two classy points in the first-half and lashing the ball to the net for an opportunistic second-half strike that settled this game as a contest.
But how did the player himself feel at being handed a starting jersey?
“It was obviously a big shock to me,” revealed Walsh afterwards. “I’d never played for the Kilkenny seniors before. Kilkenny training is very tough but if you hurl well in training, you get the start. And I suppose I proved that with myself and Cillian Buckley getting the start today.
“I was nervous going out but the likes of Henry had a few words with me, David Herity, (Eoin) Larkin was very good. They prepared me for the match. I’m still finding it hard to come to terms with it but hopefully it will kick in during the week.
“I did the same thing I always do before a game. Last night I watched a bit of telly, went to bed early, got a good night sleep and that was crucial, definitely. It was the same routine..”
The opening score helped soothe any nerves that Walsh possessed.
“I was a bit anxious. A few balls came in and they fell out of my hand. The point, I thought, settled me down an awful lot and I was delighted.”
When Walsh was substituted with 12 minutes remaining, the warm round of applause from the Kilkenny fans reflected the approval at his contribution.
“Ah it was a great feeling. I was very tired, it was the toughest match I’ve ever played.The crowd was nice, cheering and that. I was just delighted, we looked like we had the game won and it was nice coming off to that.”
He shone on the hurling stage yesterday but Walsh has rugby experience as well and has featured on Leinster development squads in the past.
“I did back years ago (with Leinster), U16, but hurling and rugby clashed. I was with the minors at the time so I chose the hurling. I played with New Ross rugby club up until last year but I don’t know if I’ll play this winter. I’ll see how I’m fixed.
“I actually played out-half or full-back. I wasn’t the tallest when I was younger so I always played out-half and full-back. I didn’t change my position because of my height.”
It is hurling that is most likely now to consume his interest and passion. The quiet few words Brian Cody had with him in the dressing-room after the game hinted that the focus is already on 2013.
“Brian just said well done and asked me was I alright to play Walsh Cup next year. I said, ‘I was’.”