KILKENNY’S hurlers must face the momentous final 70 minutes of their historic ‘Drive for Five’ without totemic forward Henry Shefflin after confirmation that his season has been finished by a severed cruciate ligament.
Shefflin was left reeling yesterday after a scan revealed that the knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final was one of the worst possible for any sportsman.
The fact that it has occurred to his ‘good’ left knee – Shefflin tore the cruciate in his right knee in the 2007 All- Ireland final – and the lengthy rehabilitation it will now demand, means that this cruellest and most untimely of blows could also prematurely end the 31-year-old’s stellar inter-county career.
“I am devastated and so disappointed,” admitted the shell-shocked star after visiting top orthopaedic specialist Dr Tadhg O’Sullivan.
“I was hoping against hope that it was something else, but the surgeon has confirmed my worst fears.”
Shefflin had made a superb start to Sunday’s clash with Cork before walking off gingerly after a 25th-minute injury.
Such was the alarm among Kilkenny ranks that he and injured teammate Brian Hogan were immediately whisked off to a cryotherapy chamber in Wexford to try to minimise the problem.
The nine-time All Star recalled yesterday how his left knee gave way immediately after he had contested a high ball.
“I heard something pop,” he revealed.
“I had an idea I was in a bit of trouble, but I was hoping it wasn't what I feared it might be.”
Shefflin was so shattered yesterday that he said he hadn't even contemplated when he might undergo surgery. For an inter-county hurler, regaining full match fitness after such a serious injury is estimated to take eight months.
One scrap of consolation for Kilkenny yesterday was the news that centreback Hogan’s AC shoulder-joint injury could be healed in time for the All-Ireland final.
Meanwhile, Tipperary ace Eoin Kelly took only a limited part in training last night as the Premier county try to minimise a recent back niggle and ensure he is fit to start in Sunday's All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Waterford.
Kelly took part in the first half of training but reportedly did not do any contact work as a precaution against exacerbating his back twinge.