Horan hails Walsh's impact on Kilmacud Crokes
By John Harrington
Shane Walsh hasn’t taken long to win the trust of his new Kilmacud Crokes team-mates.
The Galway star transferred to the Crokes from his home club Kilkerrin-Clonberne in August and has quickly become a vital player for the back to back Dublin champions.
He was their match-winner when he scored four points in the Dublin SFC Final against Na Fianna, and has impressed too during their run to Sunday’s AIB Leinster Club SFC Final against The Downs, scoring seven points in two matches.
And for his fellow Kilmacud Crokes forwards like Shane Horan, Walsh’s contribution goes beyond what he scores.
"When it was first announced, you're kind of excited,” says Horan when asked of his initial reaction to Walsh’s transfer.
“Obviously there's a part of you that's fearful about another lad coming into the forwards.
“When you're playing in the forward line with him, and I always go back to Paul Mannion with this, the other backs have to be wary of those two guys and it gives the rest of us a little bit more space to do a bit of damage.
"If even our defender has to focus away at all, it buys you a bit of time. Additionally, his training and his thoughts from his time with Galway, tactically he's quite good. It's a different set of eyes. We had a set group for a while there where we saw things the same way. To get a new set of eyes in for how we press a kick, or how we shape up in attack, it's good to have him involved from that perspective."
Walsh’s transfer to Kilmacud Crokes didn’t find favour with those who felt such a big and successful club should have enough home-grown players, but the outside noise didn’t unduly bother Horan and his team-mates.
"To be honest, not really,” he says. “Us as players, even when Robbie (Brennan) said it to us, it was nothing to us.
“People were calling us a super club before he joined, and there was always going to be something, especially after the previous year we'd had and losing the final. We only had the goal of getting back and winning Dublin was the big thing.
"I've been around the club and the team long enough, we always have people from the country who are moving up to Dublin for work. As long as they meet the criteria of the club and are committing to the area and not coming for one season and moving on.
“He's come along and it's well documented that he's embedded himself well. He's coming along to hurling matches, Ladies games, and meeting up for food and coffee. He couldn't have made more of an effort and we're happy to have him."
If Kilmacud Crokes go on to win the AIB All-Ireland Club title a year after losing the final to Kilcoo, then the addition of Walsh will be held up by many as the difference-maker.
He’s certainly made a big impact, but it’s taken a huge collective effort by Crokes to get back to a Leinster Final after the devastation of losing last year’s All-Ireland Final in the manner they did.
That experience would have torn the heart out of many teams, but the Kilmacud players hadn’t even left Croke Park before they were already resolving to make amends for the defeat.
“In the changing room everyone was obviously quite down but Robbie (Brennan) said something like 'the next final is in 12 months and we'll be back here'. That's all he needed to say at the time and that's all that was said.
“We left Croke Park, went back to the club, back to our families and kind of forgot about it, to be honest. A lot of lads took a bit of time off and then regrouped in April/May and rebuilt through the summer then.
“And then when we hit July we knew we had to focus again and look at our three-game blocks and each game as it came because Dublin is so tough and it took so long for a lot of guys including me to get a Dublin title. You know how hard it is so I think we were sharp from the start because of that.”
Horan is 31 now and at the stage of his career where he wants to seize every opportunity going. It’s a mindset that’s hard-wired into what’s now a very experienced Crokes team.
“When I was getting involved with the senior team it was the Final in 2012 and I would have watched the lads from '06 to 2010 winning or being there or there abouts,” he says.
“Then obviously being in a final in 2012 against a very good Ballymun side I thought, okay, we'll be competing year after year. Then there was a bit of a barren period when you realise that you're probably not doing enough as regards training but probably also away from football as well.
“I think we're very lucky at the moment where we have 30/35 committed lads who...there's a sport/life balance there but when we're training we're training hard.
“I think a lot of lads have bought into that and know if we're doing that and there or there abouts we'll be competing. If we're not at it then we'll get turned over. Yeah, I think there's a good mindset across the group.”