Shefflin shoulders his responsibilities again
BACK ON a Monday night in June Henry Shefflin was staring into the abyss. He went down to the wall to hit a few sliotars but was forced home without a bead of sweat on his brow.
“I couldn’t puck a ball because my shoulder was at me,” said Shefflin.
That was six days before Kilkenny faced Dublin in their opening Leinster championship game.
“To come from that stage, getting scans between the Dublin and Galway match, my mind wasn’t totally in it. I was more concerned about the shoulder, probably.
“I decided to put all those things in the past and concentrate on hurling. That’s what I have done.”
That’s what he has always done. Shefflin has never missed a championship match since his debut in 1999. He finishes this campaign as top scorer, with 3-56, and his influence in yesterday’s replay was simply a continuation of his epic showing in the September 9th draw.
Even considering so many Kilkenny hurlers raised their performance levels yesterday to snare a ninth All-Ireland title in the Brian Cody era, which is also the Shefflin era, this game was still about the greatest of them all.
It was put to Brian Cody that Shefflin set the tone and the rest followed.
“He set the tone from around 1999 to be honest about it,” Cody replied. “That’s the ‘early on’ when he set the tone; from the point he started playing senior hurling for Kilkenny.
“He hasn’t just played for Kilkenny, he has done everything for Kilkenny. He has led for Kilkenny, he has fought for Kilkenny, he has scraped for Kilkenny. His work-rate is just immense.
“Everybody raved about him the last day, and rightly so, the way he came out and just led from the front, when we were under severe pressure. Today there he was, just working, working, working.
Kilkenny board secretary Ned Quinn last night helpfully pulled Shefflin away from a quiet drink in the players lounge with Joe Canning.
A gentleman to his gills, he was quick to note that Noel Hickey joins him on nine All-Ireland medals, and the old warhorse featured as a blood substitute after Cyril Donnellan was red carded for spitting open JJ Delaney’s ceann.
But it is Shefflin who surpassed two of hurling’s greatest names yesterday – Cork’s Christy Ring and John Doyle from Tipperary. His recently retired team-mate Eddie Brennan also has eight medals and another Kilkenny great Noel Skehan won nine from 1968 to 1985, six on the field.