Grace Walsh was only too happy to reminisce about Kilkenny’s All-Ireland success last year when she spoke to KCLR’s Saturday Scoreline.
In a frank and honest interview, the 2020 Camogie Player of the Year nominee revealed that “pure joy and happiness” was the overwhelming emotion once the final whistle blew in their All-Ireland final victory against Galway last December.
“It was pure joy and happiness when we won last year.
“It was such a special time to be together as a team in Croke Park that night and it was just pure ecstasy,” said Walsh.
The Tullaroan and Kilkenny player also highlighted a surprise area that allowed Brian Dowling’s team to finally get over the line following three All-Ireland final defeats in-a-row.
She said: “I thought it was easier playing without a crowd, to be honest. It can be a bit daunting with the fans and the cameras, so we were a bit more relaxed as a team this year than we had been in previous years.”
Podcast: Have a listen to the full interview here from the 17-minute mark.
Grace, who is part of the Walsh hurling dynasty in Tullaroan, with her brothers Tommy and Pádraig both being past and present Kilkenny stalwarts while Shane captained the club to an Intermediate All-Ireland championship in 2020, reserved a lot of praise for Kilkenny manager Brian Dowling and his backroom team.
“The backroom team instilled a belief and confidence in us so that when we went out on the pitch, we knew that we could get over the line. They really inspired us.”
The 2020 Player of the Year nominee was under no illusion as to how fortunate the entire Kilkenny panel were to have the opportunity to take to the field during the coronavirus pandemic when large parts of society were forced to shut down.
She stressed: “We felt lucky to be out on the pitch with everything that was happening, and we just enjoyed it which was a huge factor in achieving what we did.”
Kilkenny famously retrieved an early six-point deficit against Cork in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final to book a place in the decider. The two-time All-Ireland winner feels that the win against their old rivals in their own backyard was a critical moment that gave the whole panel the confidence needed to go one better than they had in the three years prior to 2020.
“We were delighted to get Cork in the semis, and we knew that to be the best we had to beat the best.
“Beating them in their home ground gave us a great belief that we could go on and win the All-Ireland,” said Walsh.
Health a priority
Walsh, who works as a nurse, stated that while it is deflating to be unable to train and play due to the recent announcement that the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association are no longer classed as elite, the battle against the pandemic must be the priority for everybody at the moment.
“I’m disappointed that I can’t go training but if we play now people might get sick. If we do wait, we can protect people’s health and that’s number one.”
The Kilkenny great concluded by highlighting how much more enjoyable 2020 was due to the fact that club hurling was prioritised above the intercounty game.
“This was my favourite year playing with the club. We got to train with the clubs for weeks and play with the people who you grow up with.
“It was so much more enjoyable, and we were finally able to give back to the club as intercounty players. Going back to the club led me to fall in love with camogie again and I remembered why I played the sport in the first place.”
The winner of the Player of the Year award will be announced on March 6th in a virtual ceremony. Whatever the outcome, Walsh will remain as one of the select few who oozes class both on and off the pitch.