There is raking yourself over the coals and then there is what Aidan Walsh did to himself after last year’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final, writes By John Fogarty
Having been substituted midway through the second-half of that 10-point defeat to Tipperary, he unbuttoned his helmet and shook his bowed head, apologising to Jimmy Barry-Murphy as he crossed the whitewash.
He’s yet to watch back on the game.
And probably never will.
After suggesting he felt guilty claiming a spot ahead of players who weren’t in and out of the panel as he was in his dual capacity, he said to himself he never wanted to find himself in that situation again. Feeling he owed the hurlers more played a large part in his decision to commit to them solely this year.
“To put in a performance that day was just not good enough. I’ll put the head down this year and right that.”
As he puts it, what followed after the Tipperary game was “a real downer”.
“I suppose I felt very down about it. We played well up to that stage. I know we played very badly in the first round of the championship against Waterford. After that, we seemed to pick it up. The Munster final was a good display. Looking back on it [the All-Ireland semi-final], I haven’t watched the game, I couldn’t watch it back, to be honest, it was so disappointing. We had chances and they just didn’t go over.
“It was one of those days — they got goals at the right times and stuff.
“Cork being such a hurling county, we got a fair share of abuse from our own. Even our own local people at home [Kanturk] were giving us abuse. That comes with it. You just have to take it on the chin. Like that, we were disappointed, but we’ve got over it, we’ll drive on for the coming year. We’re Division 1 now this year, so that’ll be good preparation for championship.”
Kevin Hennessy last Saturday said Cork took a major step backwards as a result of the defeat, but Walsh anticipates supporters will be back on side with them come the start of next month’s Allianz League.
“Cork will always support hurling, I’ve no doubt the first league game against Kilkenny will be a massive crowd. I know they probably were very disappointed when it happened but, after a few months, they’ll forget about it and they’ll support us just as strongly again.”
Prior to plumping for hurling over football, Walsh had indicated whatever code he chose was likely to be the one he would concentrate on for the remainder of his career. He’s a little more circumspect now.
“I can’t really say, I’ll take it year by year and see how things are going. Football is very close [to me], even looking at the paper yesterday [Monday], seeing the footballers playing Tipp in the McGrath Cup, I was reading the report and stuff.
“I still keep good contact with the lads. It’s hard to see them playing, see them training and stuff. Like that, I just play it by ear and see what happens.”
With both teams training in CIT
— where he is currently studying a business degree and whom he’ll represent in the forthcoming Fitzgibbon Cup — he feels his decision more acutely, just as Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan do about their respective calls. Not surprisingly, as a player who tried his hand at playing both games at the highest level, he doesn’t agree with Joe Brolly’s claim that county players are “indentured slaves”.
“That’s just the way it is. If you don’t put in five or six nights a week training at full tilt you are just going to fall behind and you won’t be there in August and September.
Last year, I enjoyed it hugely, because it’s all about playing and being involved. I know there are hundreds and hundreds of players down in Cork that would love to be in the same position that we all are with the hurling and football. You just have to take the good with the bad, I know it’s a lot of commitment and effort, but there is nobody holding a gun to our head, nobody forcing us to play. It’s our own decision. If he thinks we are slaves, that’s his opinion.”
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