Kilkenny half-forward Walter Walsh has hailed the spirit inside the Cats camp ahead of their All-Ireland final clash with Galway this Sunday.
The Tullogher-Rosbercon clubman revealed to RTÉ Sport that since the retirement of several key members of the 2014 squad, standards have not slipped in inch, as the doyens of hurling seek to claim a fourth All-Ireland title in five years.
“The spirit is brilliant. I suppose at the end of last season with the five lads that had retired there were a few empty spaces in the dressing room and we found they were filled pretty quickly and we really gelled,” said Walsh.
“We still work as hard in training as the lads who have left. Brian Cody always says the spirit is what Kilkenny hurling is based on.
“The lads really came in well and it’s united us all as well.”
Twenty-four year-old Walsh also gave an insight into Kilkenny’s training regime over the last number of weeks, highlighting that hooking, blocking and first-touch play have formed the key elements of the panel’s field work.
“We’ve mixed it up. There’s hooking and blocking [in training],” said Walsh. “That’s very important too, along with a lot of first-touch work. We’ve two more tough trainings where we’ll have matches in them, but the tough training is over now.”
“You’re always worried going to a Friday meeting before championship games not knowing if you’re starting or not" - Walter Walsh
Winning All-Irelands is very much a product of having a strong panel, which creates competition for places, and Walsh feels therein is one of the key strengths of this Kilkenny outfit.
“There’s competition for places and everyone is trying really hard,” said Walsh. “Personally I’m just trying to put myself in contention for a starting position.
“You’re always worried going to a Friday meeting before championship games not knowing if you’re starting or not.
“The bench is good and that’s the way it has to be if you want to be successful.
“You have to know if you’re not performing that there’s someone who will gladly take your spot.”
Galway accounted for Kilkenny in the Leinster final of 2012 and the Cats are well aware of the damage The Tribesmen are capable of as a result.
“Galway beat us back in Leinster in 2012, quite convincingly, as well. So you don’t go into any game thinking that you have a slight advantage,” said Walsh.
“You go into the game thinking you need to work hard. You need to work really hard for the team if you want to win the game.”