Shefflin and Hickey back for tilt at 10th
Published 13/12/2012 | 05:00
Nine-time All-Ireland medal winners Henry Shefflin and Noel Hickey have confirmed that they will be part of the Kilkenny set-up for the defence of the National League and Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2013.
The pair claimed a record ninth winner's medal in September when the Cats beat Galway in a final replay to claim their 34th title.
There was speculation about the future plans of the pair, especially Shefflin, who will be 34 next month, mainly because he has suffered some serious injuries in recent years, including two ruptured cruciates.
However, both confirmed to the rest of the panel at the All-Ireland medal presentation night that they were looking forward to the upcoming holiday to New York and Jamaica with the squad, and then to getting back into training in the new year. This is the first time either had spoken publicly about their future plans.
Hickey will celebrate his 32nd birthday three days before Christmas.
Kilkenny officals said there had never been any real doubt that Shefflin would continue, once he stayed clear of injuries.
He picked up an ankle ligament sprain in Ballyhale's Leinster club championship defeat against Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) recently, but that has now cleared.
At the other end of the age scale, Richie Doyle believes that Kilkenny will have to get even better if they are to stay on top in 2013.
A heavy Leinster final defeat to Galway combined with a loss to an impressive Clare in the All-Ireland U-21 final means there will be plenty of challenges for Kilkenny next year, according to the Barrow Rangers man.
"We played Clare in the U-21 final and they were an absolutely super team," said the wing-back. "They beat us fair and square and they won it a couple of years previously, beating Kilkenny as well, so they are going to be around for the next five or 10 years as well. It will be an interesting championship in the next couple of years when teams like that come through.
"And Galway hurled absolutely unbelievably (in the Leinster final), we had to reassess ourselves and see where we were going wrong. Even when we went down to Limerick that was a really tough game as well."
While both Doyle and fellow youngster Walter Walsh appear to be very much part of Cody's plans for the future, he knows they'll have to prove themselves all over again.
"When you come into the panel first, the (older) lads give you bits of advice and that helps you, it makes it easier for you to come into the set-up. To stay in there is then the next job."
Off the pitch, tension is mounting before a crucial vote at tonight's annual county board convention. Out-going secretary Ned Quinn and former secretary Pat Dunphy are set for a head-to-head battle for the post of chairman.
Quinn vacates the role of secretary after serving five consecutive years. Dunphy has been vice-chairman during the same period. Neither man has been nominated for any other position on the county board, so the loser will step into the background.
A third candidate, Jimmy Walsh, the county's current Central Council delegate, has also been nominated for the job. It is expected he will stand aside because he is standing for the job as secretary against out-going chairman, Paul Kinsella.
Both these candidates for secretary have also been nominated for the role of Central Council delegate.