The disappearance of the offensive mark come championship will not lessen Tommy Walsh’s influence, according to Kerry manager Peter Keane.
In his third coming in the Kerry shirt, the 31-year-old full-forward has been an integral part of the Kingdom’s fine spring start, profiting from the offensive mark which is on trial up until the league’s conclusion.
The Kerins O’Rahillys star turned in a man-of-the-match performance during Kerry’s round-four win away to Galway, popping up all over the opposition half in what was his first start at senior level in three years, two weeks, and two days. It was more of the same against Monaghan last time out, Walsh converting three of the four marks he claimed.
Pumping high ball in on top of the former Sydney Swans forward has been a noticeable feature of Kerry’s play since Walsh made his return when sprung as a half-time substitute away to Cavan in February.
But with the offensive mark not in play this summer, there is an argument to be made that Walsh’s championship effectiveness will be far less than it has been in recent weeks given there will be no reward for clean catches inside the opposition 45m line.
Kerry boss Peter Keane takes a different view. “I don’t see any major difference that will make to Tommy. He has good hands. If there is ball going into him, whether it’s above him or in front of him, he is winning the ball.
“Obviously, there will be drier ground later on in the year when the mark won’t be there so he won’t be alone up front, he will be able to pass it off to a man in a better position.”
Keane said it was Walsh’s 2018 county championship form with Kerins O’Rahilly that convinced him to recall Walsh to a squad he had opted out of in April 2016. The Strand Road club were the only side to beat Dr Crokes in last year’s Kerry county championship.
“I was watching the games last year and I thought Tommy had a great county championship with Kerins O’Rahillys.
“I felt, looking at him, that he had something to offer. When I sat down with him and we had a chat before he got involved in it at all, there were obviously things we had to do and we did them and he is progressing very nicely.”
Victory over Mayo tomorrow evening would secure Kerry a sixth consecutive league win, a feat last managed back in 1965.
More importantly, extending their unbeaten run would advance Keane’s new-look side to a spring decider.
“We are reasonably happy to have five games won but ultimately that was not the plan. The plan was to try and put a team together and so far so good,” said Keane.
“Sure, if we get to a league final, it’s a bonus. But we are not here thinking that we have to win this game to get to a league final. What we are saying is that it’s about learning.”