FORMER KILKENNY ENFORCER Tommy Walsh believes the current squad needs “encouragement and patience” as they look to navigate through a transitional period.
Kilkenny travel to Thurles to take on Tipperary tonight, having won just one of their opening three league games.
In contrast the reigning All-Ireland champions are riding the crest of a wave and haven’t been beaten in competitive action in 11 months.
Walsh, who retired in 2014 after winning nine All-Ireland titles, says it’s important the young crop are not compared with the great teams he played on.
“The Kilkenny team at the moment, there’s so many young players coming into the set-up,” says the 33-year-old.
“The worst thing we can do is compare them to the team that won all the All-Irelands.
“I’ll never forget when we were starting off around 2006, after losing for two years, we were talking a lot about the great team that won in 2002 and 2003. We just said to ourselves, ‘forget about them lads – we’re the new guys.’
“The management and players got together and said we’re going to look forward from now on. That’s what the Kilkenny guys have to do. Forget about the guys that were there in the past, they’re gone.
“This is a new team. Judge them against themselves and let them progress at their own level. They need encouragement and the Kilkenny public need patience.”
Tommy Walsh was speaking at the launch of a new season of Laochra Gael in Croke Park.
Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE
Brian Cody has experimented with Padraig Walsh full-back this spring as Kilkenny look to fill a void on the last line of defence. Walsh senior says his younger brother “has done well” in an unfamiliar role.
“He wouldn’t have played full-back before,” says Walsh. “I think the modern game is a bit different now.
“They way forwards move, it’s no longer conventional where the six forwards line up in their positions. It’s just constant movement. Even if you’re corner-back you could spend half an hour at full-back, when you’re wing-back you could be back in the full-back line.
“His more natural position is probably around the middle third but the way the game has gone now you have to be able to play anywhere.”
One statistic that may worry Kilkenny boss Cody is their failure to hit the net since last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to the Premier.
They’ve failed to hit the net in their last five games, including the Walsh Cup semi-final and final.
“The way teams seem to be setting up now, there’s a lot of spare defenders and t’s hard to score goals,” continues Walsh.
“When we were at our height and Dublin used to play an extra man back, we used to find it very difficult to score goals. Tonight will be more of a real ‘where are we.’
“I reckon Kilkenny and Tipperary will go 15 on 15. If we don’t score any goals tomorrow night maybe they’ll have to look at something.
“But we never got carried away with scoring goals. If it happened, it happened. You can’t force it. If you win matches scoring points, you just have to go with that. Naturally players have different skill sets.”
The 15th series of Laochra Gael starts on Wednesday night on TG4 with Dónal Óg Cusack. The programme on Tommy Walsh will feature later in the series.
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