HENRY SHEFFLIN is urging patience after making his seasonal return to playing last Saturday but the Ballyhale icon remains on course for a Kilkenny comeback in their Leinster SHC opener on June 23 and a possible date with Anthony Daly's Dubs, writes Conor McKeon.
Shefflin came on with 20 minutes to go during Ballyhale Shamrocks' league victory over Dunamaggin on Saturday, some seven months after suffering a serious shoulder injury in last year's county final.
"I got 20 minutes under my belt and it was just brilliant to be putting on the helmet and getting onto the field for a game," Shefflin explained.
"I was happy enough with how I did. I got no belts on the shoulder and it was great to wake up on Sunday and know that I'm going in the right direction."
The 10-time All Star will continue to train with his club this week and is expected to play a more significant role in their next competitive match against St Martin's next weekend, after which he will rejoin Brian Cody's squad for the first time this season.
However, he warned: "But it'd be very foolish though to start thinking that I'm ready to go back playing with Kilkenny. I know myself there's still a bit to go yet.
"It was only a club game and we were winning well when I came on. That was the perfect situation to make my comeback but at the same time, it was a good bit off the intensity I need to get used to again. Inter-county is another step up.
"I'll know myself when I'm ready to come back but we'll have to wait and see if I'll be okay for the Leinster semi-final."
Kilkenny will face Dublin, Carlow or Laois in Portlaoise in their provincial opener.
Another of hurling's iconic forwards is preaching a similar message following his return to the inter-county scene.
Lar Corbett ended a short hiatus from the Tipperary squad last weekend but will play no part against Limerick in the championship on Sunday week and has predicted it could take months rather than weeks before he is ready to play again.
"I am realistic about how much work I have to do to get my fitness level up to what it should be to play for Tipperary this year," Corbett insisted. "And if I get into that position and I'm called on, I will do my living best.
"But we are talking months here, not weeks; that's the level hurling is at nowadays."