Kerry star Walsh signs for AFL side St Kilda

All-Ireland SFC champions Kerry have been dealt a significant blow with the news that Tommy Walsh, one of the county's best attacking talents, has completed his switch to Australian Rules football.

All-Ireland SFC champions Kerry have been dealt a significant blow with the news that Tommy Walsh, one of the county's best attacking talents, has completed his switch to Australian Rules football.

Walsh has signed a two-year international rookie contract with AFL Premiership side St Kilda, who are based in Melbourne.

The Saints topped the Premiership ladder but lost the Grand final to Geelong last month.

The powerfully-built Walsh, voted Young Footballer of the Year in 2008, played an influential role for Kerry in the latter stages of this summer's Championship.

He scored a vital goal in the semi-final win over Meath, winning his place back in the team for the final against Cork during which he landed four points from play at full-forward.

The 21-year-old is a son of seven-time All-Ireland winner Sean Walsh and has long been courted by leading Aussie Rules agent Ricky Nixon, who described the Kerins O'Rahilly's clubman as one of the best talents he has seen.

Walsh had a 10-day trial period with St Kilda late last year and has signed for the club ahead of next month's international rookie deadline.

"I'm very excited. I'm glad all the speculation is over and I'm looking forward to going over to the Saints," he admitted, with pre-season training starting in the coming weeks.

"It was a very tough decision but it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I have got a lot of support from fellow club and county players, family and friends in Kerry.

"I'm not under any illusions about what's ahead and hopefully it will work out."

In a statement, St Kilda explained that signing a player of Walsh's calibre is "a significant coup for the club" and that they believe he can "effectively make the transition to play AFL football and be an exciting prospect in 2010 and beyond".

St Kilda's general manager Matthew Drain said: "Tommy Walsh is one of the most credentialed players to come out of Ireland. While he faces hard work to adapt to AFL at the highest level, we are confident that what we have seen of him proves he has enormous talent to become an important player for St Kilda.

"Essentially, we see that Tommy Walsh, in addition with Andrew Lovett, has taken place as a first round draft pick, based on his size, ability and credentials."

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