Sunday 25 February 2018

No white smoke as Shefflin content to live in moment

Star focused on Ballyhale, writes Donnchadh Boyle

Henry Shefflin
Henry Shefflin
Henry Shefflin
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Don't ask. But if you're going to ask, be prepared for the same answer he's given since the beginning.

After the club campaign is over, Henry Shefflin will make a decision. Or at least reveal it to the rest of us.

When exactly? Well before the end of March. And that's as much as you're going to get.

The rumour mill has whirred constantly since Shefflin landed his tenth All-Ireland last September and a place in history that is all his own.

That Ballyhale have gone all the way to St Patrick's Day has surprised him. He expected it all to be done at this stage and for the questions to be answered.

But it hasn't worked that way and the fallow period must be filled. That has given rumours wings, the latest being that he had confirmed a return.

Not so, says Shefflin.

"You know the answer to this, I have said it since September that I was going to focus on the club campaign," he said.

Brilliant

"To be honest I didn't think I would still be here in February saying the same thing but I think it's brilliant that I am in this position.

"It's very lucky for me and my club that we are still going."

Still people, and not just journalists, ask him about his future.

He insists the constant speculation doesn't bother him but on the street there's no consensus. And picking through his words for clues is a dangerous pastime.

At least there is no grey area surrounding his form. Shefflin was man of the match in Shamrocks' All-Ireland club semi-final win over Gort but starring for Ballyhale and playing for Kilkenny are two very different things, he accepts.

"If I was very much struggling with the club and not at the pace of the game, everyone would know then what the answer is going to be," he said.

"It's different when you're enjoying it. I'm injury-free. So I don't know.

"I'm really enjoying playing with the club. I've got a great buzz out of the club campaign.

"That might be because I didn't play much last year. It's a different environment being a sub. I don't think any of us like being a sub. If you get a feel for playing, you want to stay playing."

"We had a lot of games with the club since Christmas.

"I have played five or six matches already this year. The previous year, when I was injured, I hardly played five or six in the year."

But it's not as simple as form either. Victory or defeat against Kilmallock on All-Ireland final day won't be the decisive factor. With four kids under the age of six, there's plenty to be doing at home.

"Why wait? The answer to the question would have been last September. Because I wanted to see when my club campaign was over," he said.

"It's not as simple as playing one good match or going out on Paddy's Day and saying 'you played poorly, oh no you can't'.

"It's a whole decision: family, work, my own circumstances as well as Kilkenny's circumstances and the manager's circumstances - all of these things come in to play.

"You're not going to make a rash decision on one game."

There's also the knowledge that once he leaves, there'll be no turning back. This year Brian Cody simply thanked his raft of retiring stars for their efforts and moved on last week when his side were typically ruthless against Cork.

"I actually fancied them. It's like anything, the underdogs tag probably suits most teams and it especially suits Kilkenny going down there," he said.

"I think for all the lads involved. . . you had some established lads and you had some lads trying to break into the team.

Training

"But I think more than anything else the lads have been training four or five weeks and hadn't played any game.

"So the lads were probably hungry for hurling. A lot of them were finished with their club so that's the way it came out in them.

"They were mad for hurling more than anything else, they weren't lethargic or slow and I think they were very much enjoying it.

"I think Brian would have let them just go and play and they performed very well.

"I think they were very hungry and that was the difference between the two teams. It was a great game. I think just that bit of hunger and work rate was the difference."

Maybe that will tip the balance for him.

If after St Patrick's Day, he feels sated after yet another All-Ireland title, or if a defeat lights a fire in him for more, perhaps that will inform his decision.

Until then, don't ask. He'll tell us soon enough.

Irish Independent

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