It's ten years since Brian Cody's remarkable gamble on Walter Walsh paid off. Take a look back on that memorable day here. This article was originally written in 2016.
It was one of the seemingly craziest moments in Brian Cody's tenure in charge of Kilkenny. Walter Walsh came from nowhere to be parachuted into Kilkenny's line-up to make his Championship debut for the 2012 final replay against Galway. It was a huge gamble from Cody, and not many people saw it coming - not even Walsh.
Walter Walsh did not expect to play in 2012 All-Ireland final replay
Speaking to the Sunday Times years later, Walsh revealed that he didn't find out that he was starting from Cody. Apparently, he had no idea that Cody was planning to start him.
But the rest of his team had an inkling. Former Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity told the Times that they could sense that Walsh was being prepared weeks before in training when Walsh was repeatedly paired with Jackie Tyrell. The nine-time All-Ireland winner was the ultimate test for new forwards, deal with Tyrell and you had a future with Kilkenny:
You know Brian is interested if he’s talking to you. You do something good in the match or you miss the ball — if he ignores it he’s not interested in you. But he was talking to Wally. Most fellas when they’re marking Jackie move towards the space when they get the ball but Wally was bossing Jackie a bit, he was turning and going straight for goal. Cody loves that.
And yet, Cody still said nothing to Walsh. He kept him in number 24 jersey for the semi-final and the drawn final, and didn't utter a word to him about the team. Herity decided that he needed to get Walsh to focus on what he was about to be thrown into:
We had a team meeting on the Sunday before the replay and I had Wally in the car going back to Dublin afterwards. I said to myself, ‘I’d better say something here because he can’t see it.’ I just said, ‘Wally, you know you’re going to be starting next Sunday.’ He’s such a laid back fella and I just thought, ‘He needs to start focusing on this.’
What happened next was incredible. Scoring 1-3 and claiming man of the match, before getting a standing ovation when he was taken off.
Ten years on, it remains one of the best calls Brian Cody made during his entire period in charge of the Cats. His retirement this year brought an outpouring of affection for the legendary Kilkenny boss, and it was moments such as these that made him the greatest manager of his generation.
As breakout moments go, Walter Walsh's in Croke Park on September 30 2012 is pretty hard to beat.