Last week saw the retirement of one of the most celebrated talents in GAA; the legendary Tommy Walsh of Kilkenny. There are few superlatives that are left to describe the Tullaroan terrier.
It would be easy to write an elongated article about Walsh’s career, but it is best to leave that to the historians. Instead, let us focus on the important lessons we have learned form his glittering career.
1. Size never mattered
Not with Tommy anyway. He was nearly always the smallest man on the field, but his contribution was always the biggest. The best example of this was the 2011 All-Ireland final, there was a big cluster of six or seven players on Kilkenny’s half back line, the majority of them were six foot in height, but guess who caught the ball?
His aerial ability is simply unparalleled in the modern era, or arguably any era. Part of his popularity lay in his defiance, the way he could lift a whole arena by simply driving the ball down the field. A lot of his teammates will say that when Tommy was on his game, Kilkenny were on their game. For such a small man, his influence was so much bigger.
2. Versatility is key
In the modern era, it is more important than ever for an inter county player to master more than one position, and there are few player out there who could adapt easily to new situations.
Tommy had this talent. In his nine consecutive All Stars, he received four in four different positions. That is unlikely ever to be equaled again. It is widely expressed that the number five jersey is where Tommy shone. However, his ability to master a variety of positions was a massive part of his genius.
3. Physicality is essential
Tenacity and toughness were always part of Tommy’s game. Some may have felt he took it too far sometimes but it is fair to say that he always did what was best for the team.
He never mouthed back, he took the hits and did his talking on the field, never off it. You couldn’t think of a better role model than Tommy. The physicality was part of his game, and without it, he wouldn’t have been the player that he was.
Ashling Dalton, Pundit Arena