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Tommy Walsh | Timeline of the All-Ireland hurling final build-up

Tommy Walsh knows All-Ireland hurling final day better than almost anyone in the country, having ...

Tommy Walsh | Timeline of the...

Tommy Walsh | Timeline of the All-Ireland hurling final build-up

Tommy Walsh knows All-Ireland hurling final day better than almost anyone in the country, having won nine Celtic Crosses, as well as playing in two further All-Ireland final defeats.

The legendary Kilkenny defender joined Nathan Murphy and Tommy Rooney on this morning's OTB AM, and spoke about the routine he and Brian Cody's side had mastered to a tee during their glory years.

Limerick and Waterford's experience will differ greatly this weekend due to Covid restrictions, but Walsh says it should make them more at ease.

Tommy Walsh | The build up

If you go back to the times we played in All-Ireland's you could relate to the lockdowns. It's a tough day. The morning of a match, you're just thinking about this, you've built it up all year, and you can't be laughing and joking, so I always felt when you got to the hotel you're in lockdown. The joking, laughing, the craic is gone. You better get to your seat, eat your lunch, look focused.

You're very nervous, you're not even able to laugh or joke at this stage, you're not able to drink your soup, you're taking a bite here or there on your sandwich, and you get the call to get on the bus, and you're out of lockdown.

You get to Croke Park and this is where it all starts getting enjoyable for me again. The dressing room, you still can't wait for 3.30pm to come. I never liked the dressing room. We got in there about an hour and 10 minutes beforehand. The last thing I wanted was to be left with my own thoughts. I wanted to be doing little things, like reading the programme.

Then you got to play in the warm up area. I'd spend the majority of my time in there. Running, jostling the walls, doing press-ups, anything that meant you weren't sitting down thinking about the game. The likes of JJ and Richie Power would be more relaxed, different personalities everywhere.

This is where we come to the moment of the crowd. The warm up area is a big green area just underneath the Hogan Stand, so once you open that door you can hear the crowd straight away. You had to be ready for half past three, Brian Cody always would have mentioned that we shouldn't let anything distract us. If you break your hurl, or aren't feeling great, or the grass is too long, it doesn't matter. You have to be ready.

Half past three and the door would open, I'd always make sure I was first or second behind the captain. Not through choice, I just wanted to get out of the dressing room, and this was where the enjoyment came back. Once we got out there - I don't know if you come from a farming background in Mayo, Nathan - we were like cattle coming out of a slatted shed, jumping! That was the time we could get on with it again.

Players will tell you they don't hear it. You don't really hear it but you can feel the buzz. You can feel the goosepimples on your chest and on your back.

Tommy Walsh | The Parade

It's incredible, it's absolutely incredible. Before you do it the first time, the players look so focused and nervous and you think you'd hate to be there because the pressure mist be unbelieveble. But the pressure is gone at that stage, When you get into the parade it's probably the most enjoyable part of the pre match experience. The first few years you're told to look at the ground, so you're looking down wondering who is out in the stand, thinking you better look focused in case Brian Cody is looking at me.

The parade is magic. In my latter years I would try look at the crowd - not look for people - but just to build myself up that this is the way it is. There's no point going into your position, looking up and realising there's 80,000 people at the game.

You run away into your position for Amhrán na bhFiann. I used to get a crazy habit where I would have to scratch the middle of my hand. It never happens me in life except for the national anthem on an All-Ireland final or big game.

Then you get into your position and your man hits you a few digs, and you don't react!

And on you go...


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All-Ireland Hurling Final Kilkenny Brian Cody Limerick Tommy Walsh Waterford