Sunday 24 March 2019

Shefflin has everything required to be next Top Cat - Holden

Kilkenny’s Joey Holden. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kilkenny’s Joey Holden. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

After steering Ballyhale Shamrocks to an All-Ireland final in his first season in charge, Kilkenny's Joey Holden has no doubts that Henry Shefflin has all the talents required to be the Cats' manager in the future.

Shefflin took charge of his home club for the 2018 season and they swept all before them and are now preparing for Sunday's All-Ireland club SHC final clash with Galway kingpins St Thomas'.

And while Brian Cody isn't going anywhere any time soon, Holden agrees that Shefflin could succeed him in the Kilkenny hot seat.

"Potentially, yeah," he replied when asked if Shefflin could move up to county management.

"There's no point hiding away from that, potentially he could be (the next Kilkenny manager). I see a lot of skills and qualities in Henry's management style that could do well in inter-county management. 

"But you don't know. If that opportunity arises, maybe. But at the moment he's not thinking about that, I would presume - but further down the line you just have to see what way it happens. 

"He does have vast experience, Henry, and using that experience of winning and losing on big days could be vital to any management set-up whether it's Kilkenny or any other inter-county or club that might pop up.

"He's certainly using it for us and we're delighted to have him there at the moment."

Shefflin has knitted some of the club's talented young players with established stars such as Holden, Michael and Colin Fennelly, and TJ Reid as they go in search of a seventh club title which would extend their lead at the top of the roll of honour.

Despite the new blood, Holden insists they couldn't take their progression to the senior ranks for granted and described himself as a late-bloomer.

"You could have the best minors in the world that just don't come through," Holden said.

"I've always wondered how many of the best county minors actually make it into the senior grade. It would be an interesting topic to look at. You just don't know how they're going to progress.

"I wouldn't have been a great hurler at U-21 or minor and some might say I'm still not any good," he laughed.

"Things just clicked with me when I started making the Ballyhale team, one year I could just do nothing wrong.

"I remember going up to catch a ball thinking I've no hope of getting this and the ball just landed in my hand. Things start clicking and you learn and develop.

"But you don't know how lads are going to develop. We were hopeful when they won the minor, they were very strong up the middle and had a lot of good young skilful lads around them.

"They're after getting stronger again and they're still working on their skills. They're still developing into good hurlers which is great for us."

St Thomas' and Ballyhale haven't met in a competitive fixture but for Holden, there will be a familiar face on the St Thomas' panel in his cousin Cian Kelly.

His aunt, Anne Holden, who is a former camogie All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny, moved to Galway several years ago.

"We've never crossed paths (with St Thomas') they won it in 2013, but my aunt lives up there so I have little connection so I'd always keep an eye on how they are getting on.

"They've won two of the last three county finals and the other year they were pipped by a point in a quarter-final or something like that so they are proven in high-quality physical games.

"So no doubt they'll be up for it on Paddy's Day and we'll have to try and match them."

"I'd imagine she'll be (supporting) Ballyhale but I suppose it's a no-win and no-loss for her. Someone will be happy and someone will be sad so it's an interesting dynamic."

Irish Independent

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