GAA

Tommy Walsh Embraces Ger Loughnane Attitude In Lockdown Life

When Ireland was forced into its version of lockdown, Tommy Walsh thought back to an interview which Ger Loughnane once gave about his battle with leukaemia. The Clareman's attitude inspired the nine-time Kilkenny All-Ireland winner.

"It really had a great influence on the way I was thinking," Walsh says on a Wednesday morning Zoom call to promote the Darkness Into Light ‘Sunrise Appeal’ in aid of Pieta House.

"He had got very sick that time, he had to go to hospital up in Dublin for quite a while. Rather than just saying ‘Why me?’ the whole time he just said ‘I'm going to dive into this life. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do'.

"It is a great mindset to have I always thought - very, very positive. So when this happened, working at home, you don't leave the house. So I just dived into home life.

"Once I'm finished work in the evening I'm outside until about half nine or 10 o'clock most nights. Not wondering about hurling or anything else.

"I'm playing a lot of games of tip the can. A lot more than I did in my childhood. I spend about an hour every evening playing tip the can."

There is also a hurley in Walsh's hand every evening. He's still a club player. His brother Padraig, a Kilkenny hurler, and sister Grace, a Kilkenny camogie player, are also training away, tracked by GPS data.

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"Whereas the club lads, we just have to send them (the coaches) on a text, 'Yeah, I done a two-mile today'. He has to trust you. So there's a lot of 5ks being done in 15-16 minutes.

"I can't wait to go back. There is going to be a clatter of lads running to take the first sideline cut, the whole world is practising them.

"The touch is good at the moment, but it is a lot different out in your garden with nobody pulling and dragging out of you."

On behalf of Electric Ireland, Darkness Into Light Ambassador and former Kilkenny hurler, Tommy Walsh is encouraging the public to come together, while staying apart by getting up at 5:30am on May 9th to watch the sunrise to show solidarity with those impacted by suicide. He is also asking people to spread the message and offer hope by sharing their sunrise moment using the #DIL2020. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

If inter-county GAA does return in 2020, it could be played behind closed doors or, at most, with a limited number of spectators.

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"I think the crowd thing would be a challenge we could get over," says Walsh.

"You go and ask any fella that's playing for an inter-county team at the moment, do they remember winning an under-14 county final, schools county final? There might have been 50 people at it, and it was probably one of the greatest days of their lives.

"So I don't think from a players' point of view the crowd is going to matter. And I think that challenge could be overcome by putting out social distancing guidelines in the stadium. If you have a 30,000 or 40,000-seater stadium, you could put in I'm sure maybe 2,000 or 3,000 people, whatever number is safe to do so.

"The big challenge is the players. It's a contact sport. If you're marking a tidy cornerback, he could be up beside you for 60 or 70 minutes. That's the challenge that we need to find a solution to.

"If there was a solution to the player side of things - and again it's not the players, I think every player would be happy to go out and take that risk, it's the risk of bringing it home to somebody or bringing it to somebody else. That's the biggest danger. I think if it was safe to do so from a players' point of view, it would be a no-brainer to play it.

"Often the argument is the club versus the county but we need to look at club and county. I'm lucky enough to be able to see it from both sides, being there giving my life to Kilkenny for so many years and now back with Tullaroan.

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"I see the youngsters, without these inter-county stars we'll have no youngsters because they are out pucking a ball every week, trying to be TJ Reid, trying to be Patrick Horgan, Seamus Callanan. They are their Ronaldos.

"Without them, we won't have these young fellas coming through. So I would say it doesn't matter which comes first; let's look after both of them because I think both of them are important.

"It will be easy to push the two of them together, you'll have a condensed championship, it could be knock-out only."

Last year, Walsh's Tullaroan claimed their first county title in 25 years when they won the Kilkenny IHC. They went onto All-Ireland success with victory over Fr O'Neill's in a thrilling Corke Park decider in mid-January.

"I remember one of the fellas, he's been playing with Tullaroan for maybe 25 years now at this stage," says Walsh.

"He just said, 'I can move on with my life now'.

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"You know when you've been away and you've always been beaten, maybe when you come back from your holidays, come back and visit the place, you'll always have been feeling that sense of 'Jesus, we could never do it. How was it we never got to feel that success?'

"Now, that one day in the sun and the couple of days we had afterwards, now he can come back forevermore, maybe until he's 85-years-of-age and say, 'Jeez, remember the time we won the county final and the All-Ireland?'

"It will forever be a happy place for him now and I think we all feel that."

On May 9th, it was expected that over 250,000 people would come together on every continent to walk together, highlighting the fight against suicide and self-harm. As the walks cannot take place as planned due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Electric Ireland and Pieta have launched an urgent Darkness Into Light ‘Sunrise Appeal’ which encourages people to donate what they can to this vital charity.

Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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