Shefflin showing no inclination to leave at the top
F Scott Fitzgerald saw his career nosedive at 33, and he wasn’t the only one, but Henry Shefflin – now of similar age – has spoken of his desire to keep on hurling at the top as long as the body allows.
Shefflin has also spoken about the 2012 season that saw him set further records on and off the field (a ninth All-Ireland medal, and third Hurler of the Year) and described as “funny” the fact that Kilkenny won less All Stars than Galway. He also said some comments about Kilkenny’s hurling tactics were “off the wall”.
With peers like John Gardiner now poised to join fellow Cork hurler Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in retirement, Shefflin is not assuming he’ll automatically grace the playing field again next year.
“I’d be foolish to say definitely, yes. Please God if the body is good, with no injury concerns, then obviously I’d love to be in a position to say no bother at all. But some of us are at that age, and having the injuries on top of it has reinforced that message for me, each year I get is now a bonus.
“It’d be brilliant to walk away on a high, too, but I’ve based my career on playing the game more than anything else, so if I stay fit enough, I’d love to stay involved.”
Shefflin will bid to win another county title this Sunday with Ballyhale Shamrocks and certainly looks as lean and fit as ever. He collected his 11th All Star last month, when Kilkenny’s total of five was one less than Galway’s six. “It was a funny kind of one,” he says. “I thought Kilkenny’s performances this year were very much team performances, and there were people who sacrificed their game for the team. To be fair, Jackie Tyrrell and Tommy Walsh had brilliant years. Richie Hogan had a brilliant year too, so they were probably unlucky.
“To be fair to Galway, they had some great individual performances as well during the year too, so you couldn’t take it from them either.”
What bothered Shefflin more were suggestions that Kilkenny’s tactics were somewhat heavy-handed: “Certain things that came out in the press that, to be fair to good hurling people all over the country, didn’t make sense. This thing that we’re told to ‘flick with the wrists’. I spoke to an ex-intercounty player, who was very upset about it, and said ‘I’m coaching 12 and 14-year-old kids down here, and it’s tarnishing me with a brush that we’re teaching kids how to do this thing, which is totally off the wall’. I think it was a very good point. We mark these lads in training, and there wouldn’t be any serious injuries.”
Shefflin said he wasn’t bothered by comments from Galway star Joe Canning before the All-Ireland final replay, that some of Shefflin’s tactics were unsporting. “No, they went in one ear and out the other . . . it was blown out of proportion . . I know Joe . . . and we’ve spoken about it since . . . it was taken out of context.”