8000 turn up as King Henry returns to training
HENRY Shefflin brought the roads around Nowlan Park to a standstill last night as Kilkenny supporters thronged to see him make a dramatic return to training for the All-Ireland hurling final.
Around 8,000 people turned out to welcome back their hero who, two weeks ago, thought that a cruciate ligament injury, sustained during the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, had ended his involvement in Kilkenny's five-in-a-row bid.
However, all has changed judging by his return last night. He showed decent form too, firing over a few points, while his every move drew applause from the supporters who are willing him to be fit for the big showdown with Tipperary. John Tennyson, who is also suffering from a knee ligament injury, trained too, as did Tommy Walsh, who is recovering from a shoulder injury.
However, there was some concern as Brian Hogan, who was forced out of the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork with a shoulder problem, left last night's session with a hand injury, the full extent of which wasn't immediately clear.
Shefflin's reappearance on the training ground a full 10 days before the final is regarded in Kilkenny as a minor miracle, as it was thought he would be out of action for several months, similar to when he damaged the cruciate in his other knee during the 2007 All-Ireland final.
He has been receiving treatment from Ger Hartman in Limerick over the past two weeks and could yet play a major part in Kilkenny's date with destiny.
However, there will be some more anxious days as he assesses how the knee stood up to last night's exertions.
Still, it's a massive boost to Kilkenny that Shefflin is back with a real chance of playing in a game where the Cats are seeking a place in history as the first county to win the All-Ireland five times in a row in either hurling or football.
It's certainly a much healthier situation than last week for the Cats when it looked as if they might be without Shefflin, Walsh, Hogan and Tennyson.