Walsh revels in ‘fantastic achievement’

FITTINGLY for a historic win, Eamonn Walsh of Ballyhale Shamrocks faced the press in the Croke Park museum after yesterday’s win.

The Kilkenny side now lead the All-Ireland club roll of honour with five titles – a fantastic achievement, according to their captain.

“It was a great win,” said Walsh. “We put in a massive effort – even winning Kilkenny is a massive achievement, going to win Leinster, then the biggest prize of all. Beating Newtown and Portumna is fantastic achievement and it just caps a great year.”

Walsh ruled out suggestions of payback after Ballyhale’s heavy defeat to the Galway side last year.

“You couldn’t say we were waiting for a rematch for 13 months, because we both have difficult championships to get through in Kilkenny and Galway respectively. You’re not waiting for 13 months – but in the back of your head you’re looking at the progress of us and them and you can see the courses could collide at some stage.

“You’re relishing the challenge because you’re after winning this All-Ireland by beating the champions – it’s the best way to do it. It shows we’re a good team and they’re a good team – it was a fantastic match today.

“We got the start this year and held onto it, a bit like they did last year.”

Walsh anchors a defence that’s often questioned. Though they answered all those questions yesterday, he acknowledged they come under the spotlight.

“We get that the whole time, to be honest. The Portumna match last year didn’t do us any good, or the Toomevara match a few years ago. People who maybe don’t see us the whole time maybe point at five goals conceded, and we knew ourselves we made a lot of individual mistakes. If you broke down the game last year we made some awful bad mistakes, and they’ll cost you against a good team.

“This year we didn’t do anything differently, we just went out to play – we know we’re good hurlers, we went out to play our best game and the mistakes didn’t really happen. We backed each other up – the backs aren’t just individuals, the forwards and midfield did great work blocking and hooking, but we’re happy to take the plaudits today because we don’t get them very often. But it’s a whole team performance.”

Three years ago, Ballyhale won the All-Ireland club, and Walsh acknowledges that they thought St Patrick’s Day would be a regular fixture in the calendar.

“We were very young, it was our first county final that time and every match was new to us. We might have thought it would come easy to us, our first club All-Ireland. We thought that might happen every year but it didn’t pan out like that.

“We lost in Leinster the following year, we lost to Portumna last year, so it’s only now we realise what a fantastic achievement it is to be top of the pile in Ireland.”

Even this season they had scares; Walsh points to their clash with the Wexford champions as the closest shave they had.

“The Oulart game was the one that probably sticks out. A point down in injury time and the ref could have blown, but that’s the way it turns. You won’t win anything without a bit of luck.

“We were a good bit behind at one stage against Oulart but we plugged away and didn’t drop the heads, that’s the sign of champions, I suppose. We kept going. There’s a big prize at the end of these matches, and even winning a Leinster title is a big achievement.”

Now the five in-a-row talk starts...

“We won’t get into that now,” says Walsh. “We’ll have a break, but I suppose that’s next on the cards.

“You can’t look past a game in Kilkenny, the championship doesn’t start until after the All-Ireland, but it’s a league-championship, and that starts in a month and you can’t lose any of those games.

“We’ll be back pretty soon, but winning the championship in Kilkenny is the goal, not winning five in a row or anything like that.”

Not yet. But soon.

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