HE may be classed as the utility man of the Kerry squad but Donnchadh Walsh wants to start establishing a firm foothold in the Kingdom starting 15.
Throughout the Kingdom’s golden run of success in recent seasons, Walsh has flitted in and out of the side to a frustrating extent. He entered the fray as a prodigious youngster in 2003 in a league tie against Dublin, but disappeared off the radar then until 2007. A taste of championship action only arrived for the first time in 2008 and since then Walsh has found it difficult to carve a niche for himself in the Kerry line-up. But while he may not replicate the scoring exploits of some of his more celebrated colleagues in the Kerry attack, Walsh does bring important qualities to the field of play.
“We take every game differently and set up differently for different opponents. So I can be asked to play different roles on different days. I suppose when someone is needed to help out the backs, I am the player that is asked to do it. I can also be used an a link man upfront so to be honest the role I play, will depend on the opposition.’’
For all their All-Ireland final showings, the 2008 Munster decider against Cork constitutes Walsh’s only experience of a senior provincial final day. Defeat on that occasion means this Sunday’s meeting with Limerick offers the chance for Walsh to achieve the milestone of a first Munster senior medal on the field of play. His own role in helping secure that has become more significant in the absence of the suspended Paul Galvin from the Kerry half-forward line, but Walsh insists that the controversy has not detracted from the side’s preparations.
“I think that we have all moved on,’’ he said. “The fact that we returned to club championship the week following the Cork win meant that collectively we weren’t together so there wasn’t much discussion about it. There was phone calls and text messages between lads alright. But then we got back into it so it was all gearing towards Limerick and finishing off the job of winning the Munster Championship this year. There is no point in putting in all that hard work in the two games against Cork and beating Tipperary and then not winning Munster.”
Walsh incurred a leg injury a fortnight ago while lining out for divisional side Mid Kerry in the county championship but he has allayed any fears concerning his availability in the interim. He knows that he needs to be in first-rate shape for Sunday’s clash with the middle third a key sector due to the influence that Limerick’s towering midfield duo John Galvin and Jim O’Donovan can exert on proceedings.
“It’s the key area but remember we came up against top midfielder’s against Cork and indeed Tipperary were no easy pickings either. Obviously midfield is the winning or losing of any game so winning ball around midfield is always part of our game. They will tackle us with immense intensity on Sunday and that’s what we are preparing for.
“Limerick tackle as if their lives depend on it so we know that they are going to do the exact same thing to us on Sunday. To match that you just have to be ready for it and have the composure of not letting it knock you off your game. We are ready for an intense battle out around that middle third.”
After despatching Cork at the semi-final stage, Kerry are eager not to slip up now when silverware is on offer. Suggestions that winning this game is a fait accompli with Cork out of the picture, are batted away by Walsh.
“That is the big danger – whether we fall into that trap and it’s up to the players not to fall into that trap. It’s there every day because Kerry go into most games as favourites but especially a Munster final without Cork. Limerick have come in under the radar this time which is ideal for them because everybody will have been concentrating on the Kerry/Cork performances. It will be a test of players mental strength to overcome that and management are ensuring that we are fully tuned up for a tough battle on Sunday.”
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