Former Kerry footballer Tommy Walsh has no regrets about quitting Gaelic football to play Aussie Rules and is looking forward to representing his country in the upcoming International Rules Series.
Walsh, a member of the Kerry side that won the 2009 All-Ireland football final, is currently midway through a two-year contract with Australian Rules side St Kilda and was named in Anthony Tohill’s Ireland squad for the upcoming two-game series.
Speaking exclusively to RTÉ’s Paschal Sheehy, Walsh said: ‘I have no regrets. I am delighted I went. It’s been a massive experience.
Walsh spent the last year in the development squad at St Kilda and is yet to make his senior debut for this season’s Grand Finalists.
He added: ‘Hopefully next year I can push on and get into the first team and get a few games. That’s my goal and I just have to work hard to get there.’
And looking ahead to the International Rules series, which starts in Limerick on Saturday week, 23 October.
Walsh said: ‘As a Gaelic footballer, it’s the only chance you get to play for your country and from talking to the Australian lads they are looking forward to it as well.’
Walsh admits he is enjoying his life Down Under but does also suffer from occasional bouts of homesickness.
Walsh explained: ‘The best thing is the lifestyle but you do get homesick as well. I miss my family, I miss playing football for Kerry. I miss my friends. It was tough and there were times that you say ‘will I pack it in’ but you have to stick through these things knowing there is a reward at the end of it.
‘It took time to get used to it as all we did for the first six or seven weeks was running. I lost about three quarters of a stone from the running.
‘But as the year went on, when the football started and we got into the season, I started to learn all the skills of the game and started to enjoy it.
‘It’s been a solid year getting to know the game coming from Gaelic football but I’ve enjoyed it at the same time.’
Walsh also believes that he has benefitted from the full time set up in Australia as he has time to recover properly from the intense training.
He added: ‘I feel great from all the full time training – I’d love to be playing Gaelic football in this condition.
And on the topic of being a professional footballer, Walsh admits that it beats being an amateur player back home.
He said: ‘That’s why I went down to be a professional and to have that lifestyle and I’m enjoying that at the moment.’