The Mount Sion man seamlessly made the transition from half-forward to centre-back in his mid-20s, becoming arguably the best ‘number six’ in the game. However, there’s always the drawback of having one of your best players preoccupied with thwarting the opposition rather than the other way round.
Davy Fitzgerald and Peter Queally hinted during last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers that they’d loved to have had the luxury of experimenting with a few formations, but the clock was ticking and they’d to stick with the tried and tested.
This column was pilloried by friend and foe when it suggested after the somewhat fortuitous win against Wexford last July that Michael Walsh might make an effective full-back, freeing Ken to more advanced advantage. Clare Champion sports editor Seamus Hayes reports on page 2 that ‘Brick’ was dominant at centre-back, albeit against a blunt Banner challenge, building on the way he grew into the role in the second half of the previous weekend’s defeat by Tipp.
Ken, a natural hurler who could and would play anywhere asked of him (Kieron Dyer or Craig Bellamy he aint), provided a fulcrum for the frontline, scored four points, could have had a few more, and set up a number of others for scores.
Davy Fitz’, as he emphasised on being given a two-year contract by the County Board last October, is pleading with the Waterford GAA public to show patience with him and the players, particularly those inexperienced members of the panel who are now getting, and in most cases taking, their chance as several established first-teamers remain in abeyance.
Waterford 2009 are a work-in-progress and it’s only just started. Certainly the competition for places is intensifying, as exemplified by Shane Walsh, who was supposedly ruled out after jarring his back in a heavy fall early in the Tipperary match, but such was his determination to prove his worth that the Fourmilewater man not just made the starting fifteen, but turned in his best-ever display for the county.
With Shane O’Sullivan, Eoin Murphy, Richie Foley, Seamus Prendergast, Gary Hurney and Noel Connors also impressing, a 20-point tally, 16 from play, was a healthy return at this time of year, but Clare were unusually tame by the looks of things.
As Davy was at pains to point out afterwards, no-one is getting carried away. There seems to be a decidedly understated approach to this season, which is only to be expected after how the last one ended, I suppose. It wasn’t something they could dwell on mind, or they’d have struggled to pick up a hurley again. Looking ahead was the only option. Very often a change is as good as a rest. In Ken’s case it might be a classic example of going back (to front) to the future.