Shefflin sets his sights on further garlands before final curtain beckons

Kilkenny legend intent on making the most of every opportunity before his incredible career draws to a close

Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin: “Obviously Brian is drilling it into the lads to use the ball intelligently. It’s not anything scientific but that’s what we should always be doing.” Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin: “Obviously Brian is drilling it into the lads to use the ball intelligently. It’s not anything scientific but that’s what we should always be doing.” Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 01:00

Of the countless records piled up against Henry Shefflin’s name, his number of All-Ireland semi-final appearances is arguably at once the most remarkable and most mundane of the lot.

If and when he sees action on Sunday, it will be the 16th time he has taken the stage for the year’s penultimate act. Okay, not so mundane for ordinary hurlers. But in Brian Cody’s words, Shefflin is not an ordinary hurler.

When you know there isn’t a lot of distance left to run, you feel the thought you put into each step. Shefflin and Kilkenny weren’t here this time last year and there’s every chance he’ll have melted back into civilian life come this time next year. So every day counts, even days like the last one against Dublin where he picked up a Leinster title for the 13th time in his career.

“It was great obviously to be playing in Croke Park, first of all, to be back there again and I suppose for Kilkenny to win was absolutely special as well. So it was great to be part of something in terms of winning again. Obviously my opportunities to win honours are diminishing every month, so it was great to be part of it and great to participate, to come on and get a few scores.”

Timescales

When he talks of timescales in terms of months, the antennae twitch just by reflex. You know there’s no point in asking but you can’t not. Any decision made yet, Henry?

“No, I haven’t. I would say you probably know the answer. I always say, ‘Come the end of the year’. I would think I won’t be saying that much more, to be honest. I know it’s very, very close now but I will review it at the end of the year and see what way I’m feeling.

“You know the next two months, please God, or the next three months for myself and for Kilkenny and for Ballyhale are going to be important and then I’ll look at it. I’d be a fool to say otherwise before then.”

If it is to be his last season in stripes, it’s been nothing like the ones that went before. All three of his appearances so far have been off the bench, twice against Galway and in the Leinster final. Kilkenny are changing and have been all year.

“For Brian, the big thing this year was to strengthen the panel of players. The amount of players that have been used already this year, it’s crazy. And for them all to compare that to last year, the amount of championship minutes under their belt – and high-intensity matches, pressure matches. That’s what those players need and it will stand to them. It will stand to them throughout their career.

“I think the atmosphere is very positive this year because I think the players know that no matter what, and we’ve seen it, if players are showing form in training they will be playing.

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