Sunday 26 May 2019

It was a dream year for club, I didn't expect it - Shefflin

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin passing on his advice during a coaching session at yesterday’s launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge 2019 at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin passing on his advice during a coaching session at yesterday’s launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge 2019 at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In the end, it was a dodgy knee that brought down the King.

When Henry Shefflin dusted off the boots for a fundraiser in aid of Amanda Stapleton last November, it was a reminder that he made the right decision to go when he did.

He missed Ballyhale's 2017 Kilkenny club SHC semi-final through injury and wouldn't play for the club again. And the aftermath of that charity game served as a reminder that he was wise to hang up the hurl when he did.

"That was my last game yeah," Shefflin reflects. "I went up and my knee wasn't right because I hadn't played. I went up and we didn't have a physio - it was just a selection of the Kilkenny players. So Paddy O'Brien was there with Tipp. I went up and told Paddy to strap this yoke up fairly well.

"God, I was like a mummy - strapped from there to there. I did okay in the match, but I woke up the following morning - actually we had a few beers after the match and my knee was starting to ache, so I said I made the right decision."

Shefflin moved from one side of the whitewash to the other effortlessly as he steered Shamrocks to an All-Ireland club title last St Patrick's Day. Surprisingly, the offer from Ballyhale was the only one that came his way ahead of the 2018 campaign.

Steady

"I was hoping to steady the ship," he reflects, at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge in Croke Park.

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"We'd a lot of young players and my hope was we'd do okay in the championship and it would have been a bonus to win the county final. But I was probably thinking this year would be the year to really get there and drive after it. That was because I knew we had a lot of younger players coming in.

"Look, it just happened and things went very well for us as the year went on and that showcased to me the benefit of having county players playing for your club so we won't see the lads all year and they come back and it's the height of championship so you don't get time to train.

"But once we got out in the county championship we'd a couple of weeks to the next game and then we'd a couple of weeks over the Christmas and it was amazing because having TJ, Colin and Joey, it brought on the other club players and they got better and that was the benefit of it. But I didn't expect it. It was a dream year the way it all transpired."

He's seen both sides of the coin now. As a manager, the demands that are placed on his Ballyhale players left him scratching his head. Just a few weeks after climbing the steps in the Hogan Stand, they were back in the cut and thrust of Kilkenny championship against Clara. It was too big of an ask.

"It was very tough because we lost! I've said it to the Uachtarán (John Horan) that I don't think it's right, Patrick's Day, then you're expecting lads to go with the club again.

"It's very, very challenging. For TJ (Reid), Colin (Fennelly) and these lads, they are well used to it. But I've club players who are, 'Jeez, we're after training for 14 months and you're asking me to go training again and get myself up for a club match?' It's very difficult.

"For me, it's learning. We trained three times for that match. Looking back, we should have trained just once."

There's another round of Kilkenny championship next month but otherwise Brian Cody's senior team will take centre stage. And with Eoin Murphy on the treatment table along with the likes of Richie Hogan, Conor Delaney and Cillian Buckley, Shefflin believes the Cats face a tricky summer.

"I think it is a challenge. And what he does with the team, how he shapes the teams, the three and six positions. I think it is a big challenge. But I don't think it is his biggest challenge. He's had a lot of them over the years.

"But it is a challenging period for Kilkenny this year."

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