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It’s almost seven years since Walter Walsh went into a Kilkenny team meeting on the Friday night before an All-Ireland final replay… and came out a different man.
It was the last weekend of September, 2012. Kilkenny and Galway had played out a titanic stalemate three weeks previously.
There was talk in the Nowlan Park ether of changes, but the 21-year-old rookie from Tullogher Rosbercon never even considered that he might be part of Brian Cody’s sequel strategy.
He had never played a single minute of senior hurling. The very best case scenario, he guessed, might be a run from the bench.
So he went into that meeting with no prior warning, no tap on the shoulder beforehand: “They kind of flipped back the sheet and there it was.” His name. Beside a different number: not 24, as it had been for the original deadlock, but 14.
“Sure I was in shock, I was actually nearly embarrassed. I didn’t know where to look. If anyone could see me, I probably went red,” Walsh remembers. “I looked at the thing and I looked twice.
“But I was lucky, I had my role models around me – the likes of Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney. They were the leaders of the team.”
Most hurling fans know what happened next: for Walsh, it was a baptism of fire. Switching to corner-forward at the throw-in, he scored 1-3 from play and was named man of the match as Kilkenny accelerated to victory.
At 28, he is now one of the leaders on a team scenting Liam MacCarthy glory after a four-year ‘famine’, faced by a familiar Tipperary foe in this Sunday’s showpiece.
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