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Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh relishing working with his 'hero' DJ Carey
Last Updated: 14/01/20 5:12pm
Following All-Ireland final disappointment in 2019, Kilkenny boss Brian Cody is looking to freshen things up ahead of the New Year.
To that end, he's recruited DJ Carey to his backroom team.
Such a high-profile addition as a selector has certainly piqued the interest of a generation of players who grew up watching the 'Dodger' donning the famous black and amber jersey.
"He was probably one of my heroes growing up when I was going to Kilkenny matches," Padraig Walsh said when asked about Carey's appointment.
"DJ was the man so it's a cool thing having DJ Carey. Martin Comerford even as well is another lad when I was younger going to matches watching these lads play, they have the experience of winning All-Irelands so it'll be great to see what they bring to it."
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Although last August's decider did not quite work out the way the Noresiders may have ideally envisaged, being there on the sport's biggest day nonetheless gave them a taste of the big time once again.
"It had been a few years since we had gotten back to that stage and obviously we were delighted to get there," he said. "When you get there you want to win it but it was probably a bit of progress at least from the year before and getting the feel for All-Ireland final day again and seeing what it's like to lose, you just want to get back there and make amends for it.
"Our panel is very young and we've a lot of lads in college and stuff at the moment who would never have experienced an All-Ireland final, maybe they would have at underage with schools but definitely a great experience for them and hopefully it'll bring them on."
Walsh has not yet rejoined the Cats' intercounty panel, as he has been preoccupied with club duty, helping Tullaroan all the way to the All-Ireland intermediate final in Croke Park this weekend.
Indeed, the run with the club was the perfect antidote for August's defeat to Tipperary:
Walsh said: "That's always one of the best things about club, when you lose a big game like that, you're straight back playing a challenge match with your club the following weekend and lads don't even talk about the match, they're concentrating on the next big game for Tullaroan so it completely takes your mind off it so it was definitely a good break away.
"The club let us off for a few days to do whatever we wanted and then we were back training the following week and it was just great to get back into it, we had games coming thick and fast then so you forgot...obviously you don't fully forget about it but it definitely keeps your mind off what happened with Kilkenny and you're looking forward to getting back into the club."
Lads would say you dream of playing in Croke Park but with your club, it never came into my mind because I never thought it would happen.
Walsh is marvelling in Tullaroan's success
Facing Fr O'Neill's of Cork on Jones' Road is a prospect he is relishing.
"Lads would say you dream of playing in Croke Park but with your club, it never came into my mind because I never thought it would happen," he explained. "It's very special, it's kind of a once in a lifetime thing. It's something we never expected so we have to make the most of it now and really enjoy the day. The place is buzzing."
Preparing for such a game is certainly a departure from the usual January slog, during which he is accustomed to preseason training with Kilkenny.
"It's very enjoyable because this time of year is a time when you'd be doing a lot of fitness stuff and a lot in the gym so to be still hurling is great," the two-time All-Star smiled. "You're still going training and it's all hurling drills and you're playing matches and that kind of thing. It's different and we're enjoying it, we're not used to hurling at this time of year."
He will be hoping to return to the county panel in the coming weeks with a pep in his step, with the added bonus of some silverware.