GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Kilkenny's Walter Walsh embracing modern half-forward role
Watch Tipperary vs Kilkenny live on Sky Sports on Sunday
Last Updated: 15/08/19 1:35pm
The role of the half-forward in hurling has changed rapidly in recent years. Amidst the sport's tactical revolution, there is an onus on those with 10, 11 and 12 on their back to not only chip in on the scoreboard, but to also fulfil defensive duties.
This was clear in the aftermath of Kilkenny's semi-final win over Limerick. Even Brian Cody acknowledged the tricky balance to be struck in order to nullify Limerick's half-forward line.
"When you have the quality of the half-forward line that Limerick have, it becomes even more difficult, and the speed that the other lads come onto the ball as well," the Cats boss noted after the victory over the Treaty.
For Walter Walsh, he has seen such a change come into the game over the last decade.
"The way wing-forwards play you're up and down the field more so than any of the other forwards," said the three-time All-Ireland winner.
Subscribe to GAA alerts!
We'll send you push notifications so you'll receive all of the big GAA news!
"That's the role that a lot of wing-forwards are playing now. I was sore after that [Limerick] match, it definitely took me a couple of days or even more to get over it.
"Even the intensity of hits and everything like that, the body was just sore. But they're the things you have to do if you want to win a semi-final against a team like Limerick. They're an unbelievable team so we knew we had to work really, really hard for that."
What was notable about Kilkenny's semi-final performance was the savage intensity with which they hit Limerick, and the reigning champions had no answer in the opening exchanges. Walsh knows the Cats will have to bring those same levels once again on Sunday.
"If we can work harder than them we're giving ourselves a great chance to win the game," he explained. "That's how it is, and they'll be looking at it the same way.
"Whoever can get a few turnovers, a few hooks, a few blocks, it could be the difference in a goal going in one end rather than down the other.
"It's massively important.
"There will be rucks and if you see a black and amber jersey coming out with it then it's a huge lift to the team.
"It's really, really important, especially early on in the game."
Walsh had a less conventional senior intercounty debut than most. Rather than being first tested in the Walsh Cup or the early rounds of the National League, he was thrown in for an All-Ireland final replay.
Indeed, he made a telling impact on that 2012 victory over Galway, scoring 1-3 and being named man of the match.
Seven years later, he's now an established senior member of the panel.
"It seems like a long time since the first All-Ireland," he smiled.
"For the first All-Ireland I found out on the Friday night that I was playing. Now you're probably a bit more prepared, but still anything can happen on the day. The main thing is that you win the All-Ireland.
"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.
"It's great. 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."
Sky Sports' GAA coverage continues on Sunday as Tipperary and Kilkenny face off in the All-Ireland hurling final.