Tuesday 20 February 2018

Don't count on King Henry abdicating just yet

John Knox

THE inevitable question after Kilkenny's defeat yesterday was could this be the end of an era for the current Cats crew – including the great Henry Shefflin and even manager Brian Cody?

The answer is a definite maybe, simply because of the way Kilkenny go about their business. Win or lose, big games or small, the county never rushes players or officials into quick decisions.

And nothing will change in the short term, even if Kilkenny surrendered in Thurles yesterday the unique record of appearing in more consecutive All-Ireland semi-finals than any other county in the hurling or football championship. The grand run amounted to 16 semis on the trot.

Nine-times All-Ireland medal winner Henry Shefflin left the field to cheers of derision in the 34th minute after being sent off.

Is this to be the end of a great career? Don't count on it.

Shefflin has endured an horrific season of injury, following a difficult one in 2012 when he returned from a serious shoulder injury before inspiring Kilkenny to their 34th All-Ireland success in a replayed final against Galway.

He has spent two of the last three winters in rehab, battling to be fit. Up to the start of this campaign, he hadn't missed a championship match since the Brian Cody era began in 1999.

He missed three in a row then, although he got some game time against Tipperary and Waterford before he featured yesterday.

Shefflin didn't just grow old yesterday. Sure, he is getting on in years, and injuries have taken their toll on his battered body, but the passion and desire remain.

He will be given as much time as he needs. If he chooses to call time, he will be supported in his decision. The decision to stay or go will be his, and his entirely. That is the Kilkenny way.

Manager Brian Cody has guided the county to nine All-Ireland victories during his peerless reign. He faces the question each season: "What now, Brian?"

The reply is invariably the same: "There is a local championship to look forward to."

There is a body of opinion that believes Cody and Shefflin would leave together. Neither ever gave any hint of that, but in recent years the talk gained currency for no other reason than it seemed like a convenient end to an interesting story.

They arrived together as player and manager on the senior inter-county scene in 1999. They won't be asked to go. They most certainly won't be pushed. They will make the decision, and in their time. That is the Kilkenny way, you see.

John Knox is sports editor of the 'Kilkenny People' newspaper.

Irish Independent

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