Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Paul Geaney has no doubt Tommy Walsh will be a force for Kerry again, yet the 2014 All Star nominee believes the former AFL player may take longer to re-acclimatise to Gaelic games than Tadhg Kennelly did five years ago.
Kennelly was an AFL player for eight years – three longer than Walsh — when he returned home to win an All-Ireland title with the Kingdom in 2009, but he had routinely spent his off-seasons making the odd appearance for Listowel Emmets. Walsh has not topped up his Gaelic skills in the same manner with Kerins O’Rahillys and so has returned to his native code cold in recent months with little in the bank after five years attempting to perfect the art of playing with an oval ball.
That said, Walsh made his full debut for Kerry in Derry two days ago and Geaney spotted what he believed to be clear signs of improvement in his 43 minutes from the man who made a cameo off the bench against Mayo.
“He is kicking well,” said Geaney. “It is a difficult skill to start kicking with the oval ball and it must be similar when you come back. He hasn’t really played football here, unlike Tadhg Kennelly who used to come back for local championships. Tommy didn’t do that, so it must have been strange coming back, getting up to the speed of things in Division One of the Allianz League. But he’s progressing well.”
Walsh appeared for Ireland in the International Rules series during his sojourn Down Under and he has lined out for Kerry a good six weeks earlier than Kennelly did when he made his bow back in March of 2009. The Kerins O’Rahilly man looked rusty at times in Celtic Park, but one long and accurate kick pass to clubmate Barry John Keane stood out. Even so, it may well be the summer when pitches are harder that we see the best of him.
“Well, none of us are used to the softer pitches after the winter we had,” said Geaney with a laugh. “But the best is absolutely still to come for Tommy and for the whole group. The fitness and the sharpness is going to come. It’s a bit early in the year to be expecting that off every fella. As the pitches get harder and the training progresses every fella is going to get into good nick and Tommy is going to be sharp when championship comes.”
Geaney is already there on Sunday’s evidence. The Dingle full-forward was electric in Derry, scoring 1-5 and setting up half-a-dozen other points despite the attention of three different markers over the course of the day.
“Ah, it’s nice to get a bit of a tally,” he said. “I’m feeling sharp again for the first time in a while so happy days. It’s the first time in a while I’ve kicked a big score, hopefully it continues.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect to Kerry’s overall display was the fact that it came despite the absence of so many faces.
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