Walsh not worried by defeat to Limerick
By John Harrington
It’s less than 24 hours after Kilkenny have been heavily beaten by Limerick in the Allianz Hurling League so when Walter Walsh sits down for a chat he already has a good idea what course the conversation will take.
The sight of Kilkenny being, well, ‘Kilkennyed’, in front of their own supporters by a visiting team is such a rare sight that it was always going to cause a stir, but Walsh seems far from shaken by the nine-point defeat.
He’s still bullish about Kilkenny’s prospects of success in 2019, but, before explaining why, he’s gracious enough to acknowledge that Limerick are currently playing at a level above any other county at the moment.
“They all have a lot of confidence and they’re playing really well,” Walsh told GAA.ie. “They’re very fit for a team after winning an All-Ireland as well.
“The way they play as well, they know what they’re doing. They’re very organised.
“Looking back on the match, the two goals just before half-time were real game-changers.
“There was a strong breeze and we were doing quite well. We had hurled very well for the first 32 minutes and then they got the two goals and two points with it and suddenly from going in level we were instead going in eight points behind.
“We had a strong breeze for the second-half but they got a good start. Looking back, there were positives, but the two goals were the game-changers.”
When Eddie Brennan analysed the match on RTE’s Allianz League Sunday he made a favourable comparison between the depth of talent in this Limerick panel and the dominant Kilkenny side he hurled with.
You didn’t have to read too far between the lines to surmise that he doesn’t think Kilkenny have the same depth of talent now they did when winning 10 All-Irelands in 14 years from 2002 to 2015.
During that period tales of full-blooded training matches between players scrapping desperately for a place on Championship XV were legion.
Walsh experienced that crucible for himself when he joined the panel in 2012, and is adamant the culture and level of competition within the panel is the same now as it was then.
“Oh it is, yeah,” said Walsh. “There’s lads fighting for places and serious competition. That’s the way it has to be.
“There are also seven Ballyhale guys on the panel as well and when they come back they’re going to add more freshness to the whole thing.
“There will be even more competition for places when those guys come back in and that can only be a good thing in terms of preparing for the Championship.
“Without them we’re already capable of being very, very competitive.”
Watching Kilkenny being beaten at home by nine points might shock the senses, but only if you still view the game through the prism of their incredible period of dominance between 2002 and 2015.
The reality is that the hurling landscape has changed considerable since then, and Kilkenny no longer tower above the canopy like they once did.
“There’s more teams now that have a realistic change of winning the All-Ireland Final,” admitted Walsh.
“There’s a lot of teams capable of beating any other team on any given day. Maybe when I came on the scene first there wasn’t as many there.
“I suppose there was always that rivalry with Tipperary and Galway, but now there’s eight or nine teams there that are serious contenders.
“I suppose it’s 2015 since we won the All-Ireland last, so it’s kind of a long time, and, that winning feeling, there’s nothing like it.
“Definitely the ambition for the year is to get back and win an All-Ireland title.”
That’s for further down the line, all Walsh and his team-mates are focused on right now is bouncing back from the defeat to Limerick.
No better match to have on the horizon this Sunday then than a joust against the team they love to beat more than any other, Tipperary.
“It would be a good boost to win it because there’s always that healthy rivalry with Tipperary, I’m looking forward to Sunday,” said Walsh.
“Everything is still to play for. There’s four teams on two points and Wexford have four points. Anything can still happen.”