Former Kerry teammate Kieran Donaghy has described Tommy Walsh’s display in the 2009 All-Ireland final victory over Cork as a “performance for the ages”, after the 33-year-old Kerins O’Rahillys attacker announced his inter-county retirement.
With Donaghy on the injured list, the other member of the Kingdom’s lauded ‘Twin Towers’ full-forward line wore the number 14 jersey at 21 years of age in that decider, kicking four points from play against the Rebels, later going on to be crowned an All-Star and winning the Young Footballer of the Year award.
“I remember going into that ’09 final thinking: Jesus, there is a lot of heat on this guy, he’s been a kind of phenom all the way up through his underage career, there’s pressure on him now, he’s going into an All-Ireland final and he’s in at full-forward. I was just coming back from injury, so he had to kind of carry that ball-winning load up front,” he said on Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk programme.
“He was absolutely unbelievable the same day, and he put on a performance for the ages at full-forward. We were quite devastated to find out that he was going to Australia soon after. He made my job a lot easier anyway! He was such a good ball-winner, out in front and over his head, and, let’s face it, he was always a mismatch for corner-backs.
“I suppose the only two that really got on top of us were the Tyrone boys in 2008, and that was them putting their midfielder and their biggest centre-back (Joe and Justin McMahon) back on both of us in the full-back line. Other than that, there was nobody who could really handle him and, even on that day, we were living off scraps really against Tyrone because they controlled possession.
“Tommy just made everybody’s job that bit easier, he was a great link man, he was very unselfish, he was powerful and fast. To me, his performance in that ‘09 final, with the history and his dad being there before him, and now it was his time to carry the can for Kerry, I was so proud of him after that game because of the performance he put in with that weight of expectation on him.”
After returning to the Kerry panel in 2015, following an injury-interrupted time in Australian Rules with St Kilda and the Sydney Swans, Donaghy, five years his senior, was struck by the maturity and lead