WALTER WALSH ADMITS that he wondered if he would reach an All-Ireland final with Kilkenny after their last decider in 2016.

Walsh at the Kilkenny Media Event night.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Three years is far from the end of a famine in the eyes of many, but the Cats have expectations of contesting deciders every year.

The timing of their exit from the last two championship campaigns is a factor as well.

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Waterford dumped them out of the competition after extra-time in the qualifiers in 2017, while eventual All-Ireland champions Limerick got the better of Kilkenny at the quarter-final stage last year.

As it turned out, Kilkenny overturned the Shannonsiders last month to end a three-year wait for another All-Ireland final appearance.

“It seems like a long time since the first All-Ireland,” says Walsh, referring to his man-of-the-match display in Kilkenny’s replay victory over Galway in 2012.

“It is quite a while, even since the last one in 2016 against Tipperary. It seems like ages away.

You begin to wonder will you ever get back to an All-Ireland final because it was a couple of years.

“I suppose in Kilkenny we’ve been very fortunate to be in quite a lot of All-Irelands. You kind of question will we be back there but our ambition every year is to win the All-Ireland and we’re in the All-Ireland now so we’re in with a shout.”

Walsh in action for Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC final against Wexford.

Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Walsh has had his own challenges to overcome in 2019.

An ankle injury hampered his progress during the Leinster championship, but he’s happy to report that those problems are behind him as he prepares for the All-Ireland final in good health.

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“It was the back of my ankle that flared up, there’s bone there. It all flared up there. I’ve had a bit of trouble with that throughout the year as well but it’s totally fine now.

“It took a bit longer because if you’re not training and you’re just going from match to match, you’re not at that match fitness and that sharpness that you need to be at.

Because if you’re off a fraction now with the way things are in hurling now, you won’t be able to perform or compete at the best of your abilities. Teams are so even now and it’s so competitive. You have to be at 100% going out on the field.”

At 28, Walsh has three All-Ireland medals to his credit and is well-accustomed to the formalities that come with the build-up to an All-Ireland final.

He concedes that it’s more difficult to ignore the hype and excitement the first time around, but he’s at a stage in his career where he can fully concentrate on the challenge that awaits against Tipperary this Sunday.

Walsh produced a man-of-the-match display in the 2012 All-Ireland final replay.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The only real difficulty that remains for the Tullogher Rosbercon forward is trying to satisfy requests for match tickets.

You’re just really looking forward to the match. There’s a lot of different distractions, people hounding you for tickets and different things like that. I suppose that’s part and parcel of playing in an All-Ireland final. You don’t mind it, it’s real exciting times.

“You don’t let any other distractions before or after the match, you just try and focus on yourself. You’re just trying to get everything right yourself and that’s all you can do.”

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