Gerard Walsh: committed to Antrim hurling cause
AMERICA, Australia…or Antrim?
Gerard Walsh is too open and honest to deny he had thoughts of leaving, but for now he's fully committed to the last of those options.
The 22-year-old Rossa clubman is still pondering his long-term future and work plans but he's refreshingly enthusiastic about his involvement with the Antrim hurlers under Darren Gleeson.
“I took a year out last year [from county involvement] to finish my degree, complete my final year of studies.'' he said.
“I have aspirations of going back to study – and I have aspirations of going out to America or Australia for a stint…
“I was at Ulster University doing Sports Studies. It was a good degree, enjoyable, very relatable to life outside studies and to sporting commitments. I got a 2:1 in it so I was delighted with that.
“I'd like to develop myself outside sport as well so I'll maybe go back and do another course – I'm not too sure if I'm cut out for full-time work,” he says with a laugh.
“Full-time work is hard to juggle when you're playing inter-county.”
Yet he's clearly no shirker, on or off the pitch, explaining that he's “working two jobs at the moment, finding it pretty hard to do; working in the Rock bar and working in St Joseph's College on the Ravenhill Road as a classroom assistant.
“Just taking a year out from uni, hopefully I'll go back.
“I had other plans, to go to America or Australia but now the camp's so good, I'm enjoying it, and I'd like to stay.”
Indeed, he insists that he'll remain in the Saffron jersey this season: “I said I was going to commit this year. When I got the phone call I was absolutely ecstatic. I wasn't expecting it really, to be honest.
“Now that I've got my chance I'm going to try to take it as best I can.”
Pressed on that comment about juggling full-time work and inter-county involvement, he has no gripes:
“No matter what happens in the GAA, people are going to poke at it. Everyone has their own views, which they express.
“It's a huge commitment, everyone knows it's a huge commitment – but nobody steps inside the panel thinking that it's not a big commitment.
“You know what you're getting yourself into when you sign up to it but at the same time I wouldn't do it if I wasn't enjoying it – and I've loved every minute of it so far and will continue to do so.
“I'd say the minute I stop enjoying it I'll probably step away because I'm not here for anybody else, I'm just here for myself and because I enjoy it. It's class, I really enjoy it.”
Antrim hurlers are enjoying themselves so far in Division 2A of the National Hurling League, winning away to Wicklow then recording impressive home victories over Mayo and Meath, both by 24-point margins.
There are tougher tests to come, this weekend against leaders Kerry and then also away to Offaly in a postponed match.
Those two rivals found it harder in their games against Meath, but although Antrim were helped by two red cards for the Royals, Walsh insisted: “We were well up for it; we sorta have to win every game this year. What we set out to do is to get promotion, regardless of who we're playing…
“We wanted to get points on the board and get ready for another good tussle with Kerry at the weekend. We're well-drilled and well set-up, we know what to do if we're playing with the wind or if we're against it. We're ready for anything.”
Despite scoring 5-27 against Meath, there's always room for improvement, and Antrim noted the 18 wides they recorded, albeit in wind-affected conditions:
“Huge wides, actually,” acknowledged Walsh, “but we're glad to be getting those shots off and creating those opportunities, hopefully we can keep doing that. I know we hit a lot of wides but we'll look at that. Hopefully we'll straighten that problem out for the next day.”
For now, he's content to keep battling for a starting slot. On Sunday past he scored a point and performed well at wing-back, but was replaced by clubmate Aodhan O'Brien – who scored twice.
“In years gone by lads would have said you were near enough handed the Antrim jersey. Definitely nobody is handed the Antrim jersey this year, everyone is competing, nobody is safe. It's good, healthy competition about the place. All the lads are getting on well but they know they're competing against each other for spots on the first 15,” concluded Walsh.