Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy admits the county may have made some mistakes with the handling of Tommy Walsh since the player returned from Australia.
But Sheehy says the Kerry door remains open and he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Kerins O’Rahilly’s man back in a Kerry jersey before the end of the championship season.
Walsh stepped away from the panel after the Allianz League final defeat by Dublin, disappointed at a lack of game-time since he returned home from AFL side Sydney Swans at the end of the 2014 season.
“In hindsight, when he came back initially, he might have been better off going back to his club. And then coming back to us,” said Sheehy at the launch of the Munster Championships in Brú Ború Cultural Centre in Cashel yesterday.
“Maybe we should have nailed him down to one position. Last year he played a couple of games wing forward. It didn’t suit him. We tried him this year inside full-forward in a few of the games. But he was probably unlucky in the fact that in the first two league games we were missing some marquee players.
“Maybe if they had been playing with him it might have helped him.”
While Sheehy acknowledged the serious hamstring injury Walsh suffered in Australia was a setback, he maintained the player had got himself back in peak physical condition.
“It’s not physical, it’s just sharpness. It’s a different type of game to Aussie Rules. They’re more stop start. Physically he’s in super condition. The one thing I would say about him is he was working ferociously hard in training.
“He is very dedicated. It just wasn’t happening for him. It might be the right thing or the wrong thing by us that we didn’t give him enough game-time.
“Maybe the fact he’s gone back to his club now, to Rahilly’s, he’ll get plenty of football. The door is always open from our point of view. It’s up to him.
“To be fair, Tommy would still have been part of the squad except he decided to do this. And we understand his frustration.
“If he was playing well with his club this year and if he was interested I’d say he’d be hauled back in again. I hope it turns round for him.”
Sheehy dismissed the view of some pundits that Kerry now have too many veterans in the set-up.
“I don’t agree, because the old guys on the team Marc (Ó Sé) and Aidan (O Mahony)... both would have been disappointed with their performance in the final… but looking at them in training they’re still a huge important part of our squad.
“Even aside from what they produce on the pitch they’re leaders in the dressing room and that’s hugely important.”
He did accept the panel needed to be freshened up before championship, with six players released last week, including former captain Kieran O’Leary.
“It’s disappointing for those lads.You have to freshen. We could be right, we could be wrong. We have U21 players to come in too.
“Kerry have won the last two minor All-Irelands. There’s plenty of talent coming through. The big problem in Kerry is the supporters — patience is not in their DNA.”
Sheehy expects Kerry to have a full panel to pick from for the Munster semi-final, with James O’Donoghue and Anthony Maher nearing full fitness.
“James and Anthony are making great progress. Johnny Buckley had minor surgery on a knee problem that he picked up in training two weeks before the league final. He’ll be back training in the next week or so and we should have everyone for the semi-final.”
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