Black and amber mine a golden day
That was all the praise he wanted to lavish on the kid. You earn your stripes from Cody through endeavour and persistence and consistency . . . from making the grade season after season.
So it was no coincidence that Eoin Larkin singled out the injured Michael Rice in his captain’s speech or that Cody wanted to emphasise the achievement of Noel Hickey, who came on a substitute yesterday and, amazingly, won his ninth All-Ireland medal.
But so much of the day was dominated by Shefflin, who alone has won nine Celtic Crosses on the field of play. The burning ambition of Shefflin’s for more – for better, for always – shows no sign of dimming. He has come through injuries that have finished other athletes and looked like a man who is ready for future seasons.
“Well, I would be amazed if you don’t,” Cody said.
“I haven’t spoken to Henry about it but the thing a lot of people forget when they talk about hunger. To me it is very simple: Henry Shefflin is just in love with the game of hurling. He loves playing hurling.”
Still. Don’t all players love that? They don’t enjoy the golden autumns that Kilkenny do. Galway fought hard and honourably yesterday and can point to the red card issued to Cyril Donnellan, to the referee’s whistle which cancelled out a goal by the same player and to Joe Canning’s instant of geometric genius in which his low goal shot rapped against the Kilkenny post.
They can say that luck deserted them. And maybe it did but would it have made a difference here? Galway’s forwards have been scoring for fun all year: they had to wait until the 70th minute to register their first point from play.
Anthony Cunningham’s young Galway team have learned a lot this summer and now they have learned something of the pain of the teams who have marched before them.
“Kilkenny brought a severity today to the way they closed out our men in possession and we got very little time in possession, particularly in the middle third,” admitted Tom Helebert, the Galway selector.
“We are under no illusion of where we need to improve.”
The need to improve: it has defined the game since Shefflin came on the scene.
“It is an addictive game and it spreads right through,” Cody explained.
“And Henry and Eoin and those are there to inspire youngsters. It’s the game! The game goes on. And we are privileged and proud to be part of it and we are having a hell of a good time taking part in it. And it is fair hard to beat the feeling that we have today.”
Fair hard. Fourteen years of fair hard and still it flows on.