Thursday 8 December 2016

Henry Shefflin: I enjoyed a love/hate relationship with Davy Fitzgerald as a player

Published 22/05/2015 | 12:36

David Fitzgerald squares up to Henry Shefflin during a National League encounter in 2005
David Fitzgerald squares up to Henry Shefflin during a National League encounter in 2005

Henry Shefflin has spoken of the "love/hate" relationship he had with Clare manager, Davy Fitzgerald, as a player.

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The Kilkenny legend credits Fitzgerald's tactical awareness as one of the key factors behind Clare's All-Ireland success in 2013 and believes it will be key again as they now bid for a first Munster title since 1998.

But, as players, Shefflin and Fitzgerald often clashed verbally, not least during the 2002 All-Ireland final between their counties.  Writing exclusively in his Irish Independent column, Shefflin recalls that day whilst also expressing his admiration for the former Clare goalkeeper's palpable love of the game.

"What I see in Davy more than anything is a love of hurling" he writes.  "He's full of passion and a very deep thinker about the game.  The creation of space in the forwards is a big thing for this Clare team, but you have to be careful not to fall into a trap of just creating that space for the sake of it.

"The danger is you take certain players out of the game simply because you've become almost enslaved to the system.  I'm all for having tactics in hurling but, sometimes, you have to go with the flow too.  If there's a lot of ball going to the wings and you've nobody there only extra defenders, then you've got to re-adjust.

"I sometimes get the impression that, because of his passion, Davy can almost over-think things.  Now don't get me wrong.  I think he did a great job in delivering an All-Ireland to Clare in 2013.  Yes, they had the players, but they were predominantly young, skilful lads, some of them not even fully physically developed.

"One of the main reasons Clare won was because of Davy's tactical awareness and because their main players were at the top of their form that year."

Shefflin will be attending only his second ever Munster Championship clash when Clare and Limerick collide in Thurles on Sunday and recalls leaving his first one with a very mistaken impression of Tipperary.

He explores the tactical battle for Sunday and suggests that - despite demotion in the National League - Clare looked to be finding their old spark during the relegation play-off against his beloved Kilkenny.

Don’t miss the full column in tomorrow’s Irish Independent and on independent.ie

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