Shefflin laments retirements as he recovers from his latest injury setback
ONCE again, Henry Shefflin finds himself staring down the long road to recovery.
Having been through the wringer with injuries in recent seasons, he knows setting a date for his return amounts to a fool's errand.
It'll be a full four or five months before he can puck again and another few weeks after that before he can consider contact. It's another pre-season he'll be forced to sit out, and his team-mates haven't been too kind.
"The lads say to me that it has to be 15 degrees outside before they see Henry," he said. "Little do they know... but they gave me plenty of slagging at Tommy Walsh's wedding -- 'oh, Henry is missing pre-season training again'."
The Ballyhale Shamrocks star picked up a shoulder injury in November's county final defeat to James Stephens and went under the knife on December 7 -- just two weeks after picking up his record-breaking 10th All Star -- and he admits the frustration has gotten the better of him on occasion.
"You do have bad days," he said. "The week after the surgery when you're back there again ... I don't want to be going on (about it) but you want to be playing. It is a bit of a dark place. You can do nothing. You are very incapacitated. With the knee I was always doing something on it. With this I had to let it settle and go from there.
"At home it had a major effect. I'd have a screaming baby on the ground and I wasn't able to pick her up. That was difficult for a couple of weeks but work-wise I was lucky enough.
"I already had an automatic car for my knee so I was able to drive a bit but they will be giving me an ambulance next."
The steady stream of Kilkenny retirements continued. Eddie Brennan and PJ Ryan walked away, followed, surprisingly, by Shefflin's clubmate James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick. However, Shefflin insists there is no chance former Young Hurler of the Year Fitzpatrick will throw his lot in with another county.
"I asked him that question and no. He's is very much rooted in the club and he has been very good to us. He was back training last weekend," he said.
"He gave his reasons. He told me himself and I couldn't argue with any of them. He is a young chap and he has his own life to live. To be fair, 'Cha' was one of our star players and to go from that to sitting on the bench was very difficult to take and you can understand where he was coming from. I didn't try to talk him around.
"I didn't think Eddie would go. He told me he was thinking about it and I said, 'Jesus no Eddie, you'll be grand' and I thought that was it and that he would come back.
"But I was surprised because Eddie has so much to give but it was a great way to go out. And you can totally understand why he would do it -- he has a young family, so you wouldn't try and twist someone's arm.
"I think his mind was made up and that was it, but obviously I was very disappointed to see him go.
"Three seems a lot. It has always been one or two the last few years or no one before that. Maybe it's a sign of the times.
"There's not many of my age anymore, that's the problem. Derek Lyng, Martin Comerford, Eddie, PJ (Ryan), there was a group of us there that is dwindling quickly."
Shefflin returned from his cruciate injury for Kilkenny's championship opener last summer against Wexford and a similar comeback this summer appears manageable, with the Cats set to face Dublin, Laois or Carlow in the Leinster semi-final in Portlaoise on June 23.
However, Shefflin is taking nothing for granted.
"I just don't know with the way these injuries are going," he said. "I'm taking it as it comes. I'm not going to say anything definite because I came back from two cruciates and I know not to.
"After winning last year, I was looking forward to having a winter off and going back into the pre-season and that was all shut off again.
"But I don't want something to finish (my career) for me -- I want to finish it for myself."