Fennelly thinks Ballyhale victory could prolong Shefflin’s stay with Kilkenny

Cats legend will be hurling well into New Year if Shamrocks prevail on Sunday

Colin Fennelly in action for Ballyhale Shamrocks during their semi-final victory over Dublin’s Kilmacud Crokes. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Colin Fennelly in action for Ballyhale Shamrocks during their semi-final victory over Dublin’s Kilmacud Crokes. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

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If Henry Shefflin hasn’t made up his mind yet about playing on with Kilkenny into 2015 then Sunday should help him decide.

Because if Ballyhale Shamrocks win the Leinster club hurling final he’ll naturally roll over into another year anyway, making any decision to walk away that bit harder.

Hurling into December is never ideal, especially for a player like Shefflin, who turns 36 next month. Yet the chance to win a fourth Leinster club title with Ballyhale, and with that help them become the most successful club in Leinster championship history, is only part of what helps keep Shefflin going.

Coming back

“Henry just wants more, just wants to keep on winning,” says Colin Fennelly, his Ballyhale and Kilkenny team-mate, when pressed on what it is keeps Shefflin coming back for more.

“He doesn’t look at it like he has 10 All-Irelands, or 11 All Stars, or however many other titles he has now. So I think he will stay on, as long as we keep pushing hard with Ballyhale. I think he’s going to find it hard to leave it.”

Standing in Ballyhale’s way on Sunday, aptly enough, are Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey. Beat them on Sunday at Portlaoise and Ballyhale will overtake former Offaly kingpins Birr, who like Ballyhale have already won seven titles.

Victory would then put Ballyhale into an All-Ireland semi-final, in February, and another win there would see them through to St Patrick’s Day. But Fennelly certainly isn’t looking beyond Sunday.

“Of course you can’t look past Kilcormac. But for Henry, if he gets to March, if we went the whole way, that’s nearly the whole league gone . . there’s only another three or four months in the championship. So if he’s playing at the top of his form, there’s no reason for him to go.

“It could be a massive thing for him to think about. Why not finish off the year with a bang? But look, no one knows except for Henry, that that is the truth. . . . . He’s not saying a word about it at all. . .

“But he’s still playing unbelievable stuff. Like the goal he got, the first couple of minutes, against Kilmacud Crokes. The movement he has. The hooking and blocking, that I’ve seen him do all my life. That’s actually the reason I’m doing it now. Because I’m seeing him do it for so long.”

The camp

Fennelly suggests the recent retirements of four key players – Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Aidan Fogarty and goalkeeper Dave Herity, who between them won 27 All-Ireland medals – means Kilkenny manager Brian Cody will be keen to keep someone like Shefflin in the camp for as long as possible.

Fennelly is more confident both JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell will stay on for 2015, although he says their dressing room will be a quieter place without the likes of Walsh and Hogan, Fogarty and Herity.

“Every year you have one or two players slipping away, but they are four very big players. . .

“But for them to play a part in winning back an All-Ireland was probably a massive relief. They probably did feel it was time for them to go. . . So Shefflin now is the only fella we’re waiting on to make a decision. Sure we’re all hoping that he’ll stay on. With his experience and everything else he’s still a massive plus for any team.”

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