MOVE OVER TOMMY, there’s a new star in the Walsh household.
Grace Walsh, sister of the brilliant Kilkenny half-back, is hoping to follow in her brother’s footsteps and help Kilkenny to All-Ireland glory tomorrow in Croke Park against Galway.
While the hurlers of Kilkenny look on from the wings with no autumn hurling for the first time in what seems like forever, the camogie stars of the county have stepped out of the shadows and confidently taken their place on the Croke Park stage for a shot at an All-Ireland title of their own.
Incredibly, Kilkenny have been almost also-rans in camogie in the last 19 years with just four final defeats to show for a county rich in the history of the game. Previous to that they had won 12 titles between 1974 and 1994, including a staggering seven-in-a-row sequence between 1985 and ’91.
With their return to the final coinciding with a fallow year for the men, Grace acknowledges that the gaze of the viewing public has been turned towards them in the last few months. She admits that also like to start a medal collection to rival that of her bigger brother too.
“It’d be great, I’d like to bring something home myself to the family, it’d be nice to win now this year,” she says.
“I think the spotlight is more on us now as well. It’s kind of good for Kilkenny camogie now that they are not in it, obviously it’d be great if they were in the All-Ireland as well though.”
The fact that Kilkenny haven’t enjoyed anywhere near the same level of success in camogie as they have in hurling is something that mystifies the UCD student.
“It’s crazy. We’ve been so successful underage coming up along. We’ve been kind of building it up and this year we have a young team, I think there is only two players over 25 on our team. It’s going well now and it’s great, and you have all the lads on the hurling team, you kind of aspire to be like them.”
Growing up in the same house as one of the greatest hurlers of his generation has its benefits when it comes to getting advice Grace accepts.
“I’d ask him the odd time,” she says. “He’d be at my matches and if I thought I didn’t play well I’d ask him where did I go wrong and that, what I can improve on and all that stuff. He’s so experienced; I try and listen to him anyway.”
There’s always a chance to learn of Tommy and the rest of the squad she says.
“You would, even just eating right and sleeping right. Even nerves, talking to him about what you should do to control them or whatever. But lifestyle, yes you would try and copy him.”
Looking ahead again to her own All-Ireland final appearance, Walsh points out that victory over Wexford in the Leinster senior final in June, their first over Wexford in nine attempts, was a turning point in the season and showed the squad that they had the ability to challenge for the ultimate honours.
“I think [it gave us] a great boost winning that Leinster final because we hadn’t won it in so long, and especially to beat Wexford. We kind of needed to get over Wexford I think, we were at that stage where we hadn’t beaten them in a few years. It was just such a great feeling to win and you just noticed the camp then that everyone was really happy and focussed on the championship. You knew that having beaten the All-Ireland champions then you could be All-Ireland champions yourself.”