GAA

Kilkenny ace Walter Walsh set to miss Antrim opener in Leinster SHC series

Wexford ace Lee Chin back in training

Walter Walsh
Walter Walsh Walter Walsh of Kilkenny, pictured at the launch of this year’s Leinster Championships Picture: Sportsfile (Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

FORMER All-Star attacker Walter Walsh will miss Kilkenny’s Leinster SHC opener against Antrim later this month.

The three-time All-Ireland winner is recovering from a serious groin injury and expects to miss at least half the provincial campaign.

Powerful Walsh, who burst onto the inter-county scene with 1-3 on his debut in the 2012 All-Ireland final replay win over Galway, suffered a serious groin injury in Kilkenny’s Round 3 National League defeat of Offaly.

Walsh initially feared surgery which could have ruled him out for the season before being told by specialists to rest and rehab the injury for between 10 and 12 weeks.

It means that he will definitely miss Saturday’s National League final against Clare and then the opening round of the Championship against Antrim at Nowlan Park.

“It’s just taking a bit of time, just a bit of separation from the bone,” said Walsh of the groin injury at the launch of the Leinster senior championships in Dublin. “I’m lucky I didn’t need an operation on it really, just where it is on the top of the groin. Hopefully I’ll be back in another four or five weeks.

“I was just striking the ball, and maybe because I was a bit awkward, maybe that kind of came back at me! But yeah, just against Offaly I was striking the ball for goal and I loaded my groin and felt that something wasn’t right.

“It was rest for the first couple of weeks and then I’ve been doing rehab for the last few weeks. I went to see the specialist and thankfully I realised I didn’t need an operation.”

It’s the third year in a row that Walsh has suffered a significant injury which has cost him game time.

“It is unfortunate, 2022 was my groin, last year it was my hamstring and it’s back to my other groin now,” he shrugged. “Look, there are players who have gone through far worse.”

Even without Walsh, 2022 and 2023 All-Ireland runners-up Kilkenny are narrow favourites to regain the league title at Clare’s expense.

That would give them strong momentum ahead of the Antrim game, leaving Darren Gleeson’s Saffrons with a huge challenge.

Walsh said that he hasn’t taken any notice of those attempting to downplay the league and the value of a spring title.

“There are a lot of players on our team who haven’t got a National League medal,” he noted. “It’s a national final so it’s massive. You want to win it. This ‘only the league’ angle is kind of talked about but these are all games that teams are trying to win.

“It is a bit of a narrative that the Championship’s just around the corner but we’re playing Saturday, we’re not going to be thinking, ‘We’re playing Antrim in a couple of weeks,’ that’s not going to come into any conversation. And Clare aren’t going to be, ‘Well, we’re playing Limerick in two weeks’. They’re going out to win this game, I’m sure.”

Meanwhile, Wexford captain Lee Chin is back in full training and available for their provincial opener against Dublin on April 21, six days before they travel to play Antrim.

Talisman Chin battled a hamstring injury during the league and missed Wexford’s last two games against Waterford and Cork.

“I was only back the day of the Cork game, that was my three or four weeks of rehab done, but I just missed that game, it came a week too soon for me,” said Chin. “The following week I was back in full training and I’ve been in full training since.”

Lee Chin has been named among Wexford's substitutes
Lee Chin Lee Chin is back for Wexford