‘If you asked me this time last week, I’d have said ‘ah, no, it’s not too bad’. But, unfortunately, this week it’s a bit different.”
A transcript of the Henry Shefflin press conference during the launch of the Lucozade Sport Club Crusade
Q. Will you be back for Offaly?
HS: “It’s not very likely at the moment. You came on a good day, to be honest, lads, because basically I was back doing a bit of training for the last couple of weeks since I got the pins out.
“Over the weekend, it reacted a small bit. I was in to see the surgeon yesterday and that’s why I’m back in the boot today. I have a bit of a stress fracture in my foot. It’s not the original injury.
“With the injury I had, my foot wasn’t on the ground for three or four months so it’s over-training basically. Not over-training – just your foot isn’t used to training and it just reacts.
“I’m back in the boot now for another few weeks so it doesn’t look like it, unless they play me full-forward.”
Q. So it wasn’t one incident, just a reaction to resuming training?
HS: “It’s just the reaction. Basically, I didn’t put my foot on the ground for three months, I suppose. I went back then and tried to do a bit of training. It’s reacted to that. It doesn’t like it. It’s your body telling you ‘I don’t want this’.
Q. Did you try to accelerate the recovery process?
HS: “No, obviously there was a bit of a complication and I had to get the pins out. But they were maybe going to come out anyway. Since the pins came out, he told me ‘fire ahead, there’s nothing to stop you now’.
“But, obviously, the foot is just not ready. I was training with the club and everything on Monday night but it was feeling a bit sore. There’s no point in taking a risk. It’s the early stages of a stress fracture which is good, there’s no crack or anything.
“It’s just resting up for a few weeks and, hopefully, then bang on again. That’s the plan.”
Q. Is this the most frustrating injury you’ve had?
HS: “Last year when you sat down with me, I’d have said that one was. The year before, I’d have said it was that one. This is the freshest. This one has been slow, there’s no doubt about it. It’s definitely a frustrating injury.
“As well as that, it involves walking around so it’s frustrating because you’re feeling it a bit in everyday life. It is frustrating but, if you asked me this time last week, I’d have said ‘ah, no, it’s not too bad’. But, unfortunately, this week it’s a bit different.”
Q. Had you been on track for Offaly before that?
HS: “I don’t know if I was on track, no, but at least I was in training. I wasn’t in full training. I was building it up slowly but it just wasn’t to be. I’m definitely going to be in the boot for a couple of weeks. I haven’t trained with the lads or anything like that.
“The match is four and a half weeks away or something like that at this stage. To be honest, I need to get it right more than anything else, and that’s the plan.
Q. Are you more likely to play for county before you get a chance to play for the club, which is said to be next up on 12 July?
HS: “I don’t honestly know. July, yeah. Well, please God, yeah. I don’t know at this stage. It was just yesterday evening that I got the MRI done and that’s when I was given the boot again to go back in it. It’s very early days. I only spoke to the surgeon yesterday evening.
“He said to give it a few weeks and I’m due back in to him in about two or three weeks’ time. I’ll see what the prognosis is then, how things are going. It’s just rest. Same as anyone with a stress fracture.
Q. Where is it?
HS: “It’s on the metatarsal.”
Q. That’s quite removed from original injury?
HS: “Well it’s not, no. Basically I had a Lisfranc injury; a lot of people thought it was my ankle but it wasn’t. It was a Lisfranc which is basically my mid-foot. Most people have probably never heard of Lisfranc but a few people have done it.
“It’s an uncommon enough injury but the stress fracture is on the top of one of my metatarsals, going into my toes. So it’s just kind of up (to the) front of it. It’s probably over-compensated in several areas.
Q. Is the frustrating thing that whereas you know a cruciate takes six to eight months and a shoulder something similar, this is going into the unknown?
HS: “That was it, I didn’t know. Obviously the diagnosis took a while to come through but in saying that it’s not like I’m totally downcast about it. I had been back, I was moving okay and it felt fine. That obviously gave me hope that things would be good once I got over this setback.
“But the cruciate stuff, you can get setbacks. John Tennyson struggled with it for a year, so it’s just part and parcel. I’ve been lucky with the other injuries that I came back within the time-frame but this one doesn’t look like it.”
Q. Will it be a big deal to break your appearances’ sequence (62 championship matches), if it happens?
HS: “Ah no, I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t love to play in it, of course I would. But I would have said it this time last year, there’s no point in playing unless you’re right. And I’m not right so there’s no point, that’s basically it.
“That’ll be it, it will be over and you move on with the next match. So it doesn’t really matter to me that much.”
Q. To what extent have injuries in recent years for all the frustration, kept you fresh for championship?
HS: “I don’t honestly know that. That’s a hard one. It’s very hard to say. Obviously I’d love to be playing, that’s what I want to be doing because you do a lot of training to try to get yourself back up to speed and you do a lot on your own rehab wise.
“I suppose from a mental point of view you’re not playing matches, which can be draining enough I suppose. It’s mainly training more than anything else. Maybe so but it’s very hard to say.”
Q. Last year you said you were looking forward to a rehab-free winter. Is that the most frustrating thing that you couldn’t rest?
HS: “Yeah I suppose there is a bit of that and after the last two years of going it you would have just loved a break, just to go back in with the lads and do a bit of training. So of course that was it but look, to be fair, I can’t have it every way.
“I can’t have the year I had last year, the way the year turned out and then expect to just turn up the next year and just fire ahead again. Unfortunately these are the setbacks that I get and sport is like that, you get ups and downs.
“Obviously Kilkenny get a lot of ups and you’d see us, you’d see me, with a lot of success and everything like that. And these are my kind of down moments. But I still wouldn’t change a thing; that’s the way you live your life and you try to get on with it.
“And sport has been very good to me, and hurling has been very good. The year I had last year, I said it that if that was my last year it would have been a great way to go out, and this is what’s thrown my way this time.”
Q. Originally this was not expected to drag on this long?
HS: “Not at all.”
Q. What was the time scale?
HS: “It was diagnosed probably a week and a half later so I wasn’t quite sure about surgery at that stage, and then he said yeah, we needed surgery. He was talking four or five months, which is probably around now.
Q. Did you know it was serious when it happened?
HS: “You get a feeling which I know too well at the moment but I got a feeling something had happened. But when I went for the x-ray that night in the A and E it was clear and to be honest I just didn’t want to believe I was injured.
“So I forgot about it for about a week and was going around with a broken mid-foot for a week but I know there was something. The following weekend we had our medal presentation and I said it to the team doctor Tadhg Crowley and the physio and I told them it didn’t feel right and I got the MRI the next day and that was it.
Q. The game in which you were injured was put back a week. Did that annoy you?
HS: “Ah no. It’s all ‘should I have gone for that ball’ and ‘should I have put my foot that way’ but that’s the way the game goes. If you are playing it long you’ll have your ups and downs and a lot of it has gone my way. Unfortunately that’s the way it is now.
Q. Have you attended many training sessions?
HS: “I haven’t been there as much. I have been back the last few weeks and I was doing a bit of training on the side and doing gym work and seeing the physio. But I’m a bit removed from the league at this stage and I’m used to not playing in it.
“So I watched the game’s from a spectator,s point of view. But you’d love to be playing in the league, the final especially because there was a such a buzz around but I know myself at this stage how it goes so I kind of park the league.”
Q. What did you make of the League final?
HS: “I thought it was a very good game with a great atmosphere. The occasion itself was special. It was an intense game and it sets it up lovely for a big championship. Kilkenny had a good start but Tipp could have won it. If Bonner Maher had to have got that goal in the first half it might have been different but it was a good game.
Q. Are you concerned about the possible toll on the body with all the operations?
HS: “Not really. With modern surgery its amazing what they can to. In years to come maybe but I have had too much success to be worrying about that. This is what I love doing and what I gets kicks from. The way last year turned out for me, would it have been as enjoyable if I didn’t have all the stuff that went before it? Probably not.
“It work both ways so I don’t really think about that stuff. I love playing and training, you look at the short term.”
Q. Will match fitness be an issue?
HS: “Match fitness obviously is going to be an issue because that’s what you need to build up. You can do as much training and running up and down the sideline as you can but match fitness is an issue. But again, maybe you could say you’ll be fresh but it’s very much a wait and see kind of job at this stage.”
Q. Do you expect to be back for Wexford or Dublin?
HS: “I don’t honestly know myself so I can’t say. It’s going to be very much a ‘wait and see’ and once I get back I have to be careful again and just build it up right. It’s positive that it’s not the original injury, which is a serious injury and that looks good. That’s the positive I can take out of it – this is just a by-product of it.
Q. Has the book been held back for a year?
HS: “The arrangement with the book was that it would happen whenever I finished up. I didn’t say what year it was coming out.”
Q. Is TJ Reid back in action?
HS: “He played last Saturday night. He went well – obviously it took him a bit of time to get into it but he went well and he was training Monday night. The big thing I suppose is that you overcome it so it’s not all about the way you play; it’s about building up that match practice and he played the full 60 minutes and was there to train two nights later, which is good.”
Q. What did you think of the Kilkenny forwards in your absence?
HS: “They’ve played very well – as the league went on; I think they found it tough at the start of the league but as it went on, they improved and it was different lads on different occasions, which was a good thing. They played well and there are a panel of players there and that’s the way it showed up in the league.
Most of the lads were there at some stage. It was just myself and TJ that were long-term.”
Q. And Michael Fennelly at centre forward?
HS: “He played the week before (for the club) and played very well there: himself and Colin at full forward. He got a goal so maybe they saw him playing there and fitted him into the pattern of play. Once he gets going he’s very strong and in a straight line: himself and Colin are very much ‘straight line and head for the goal’ and defenders don’t like to see that coming.
Q. Have you had much contact with Brian Cody?
HS: “No. Obviously I’m informed about what the story is, just to keep up to date. He’s trying to look after himself as best as possible so we just very much left him alone. Hopefully he can get himself right and get back soon. Everyone would love to see him do that.”
Q. Was 2012 a special year?
HS: “Definitely. I said it at the time that it was a special year, the way the whole summer transpired because obviously I had the injury and was struggling a bit and struggling for form a bit and then it just blossomed for me from there.
“That was a special one for myself – to win the Hurler of the Year 10 years after my first and the whole year. The way Kilkenny were just gone after the Leinster final and next thing, it just started to come, started to come and then finished with a buzz.
That’s sport. That’s why we play – to get that buzz.”
Q. Was it more than just the ninth All-Ireland?
HS: “Number nine was special as well but the way the first All-Ireland (drawn final) transpired and the way that whole day went and then to come out and perform the next day made it special.
Q. Did you have to make any mental adjustment winning through the qualifier route for the first time?
HS: “Ah no. I think once you lose, you want to get back on the horse as soon as possible, so obviously I had experienced it before, the year Wexford beat us. Because it was the Leinster final it was just one extra match, which probably didn’t make a major difference to ourselves because it wasn’t that we were going playing two or three extra qualifier games, mentally trying to get up for them. So it probably didn’t change the mindset so much.”
Q. Psychologically, getting beaten didn’t inhibit team?
HS: “Ah no, it probably freshened the whole thing up again. It changed the psyche of the whole thing, because you have to look within yourselves and try and drive it on. It probably did, in hindsight, help us to drive on from there.”
Q. When Noel Hickey retired, were you tempted to follow?
HS: “No, no, not at all. I enjoyed hurling last year, so why would you give it up? I think you’d be foolish. I didn’t think this was going to happen to me! But not at all, not for one second.”
Q. In a magazine interview in England last month, Brian O’Driscoll was described as Ireland’s greatest ever athlete and he said ‘not at all, a fella called Henry Shefflin is. He’s a phenomenon.’ How does that feel?
HS: “Of course it feels unreal, and it does give you a great lift of confidence, because obviously when you’re struggling with injury or something, just to hear something like that does drive you on more. It’s a bit surreal because I, like every other person in the country, looks on in awe at the national rugby team, etcetera, and to hear someone say that is special and it does give you a great lift.”
Q. You had pneumonia over winter?
HS: “You’ll be putting me down in a second! Oh I did, I did. Basically I was back from the injury and I’d just picked up an auld cold. I think it was after the operation maybe, just the body was a bit weak and picked up a cold and it turned into pneumonia. So I was in hospital then for a few days.”
“January or early February, I think it was. So … it’s been interesting! But I’m fine actually, just rested up for a whole and actually felt afterwards – I wasn’t feeling great before, and I think it was just my body was probably a bit weak. I suppose after the last year, it was very busy in the off-season and stuff like that, and sure the club was going and then getting the operation … I think my body was just telling me it wanted a bit of a break. It’s felt good since.”