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Shefflin 'knew time was up' after game against Clare

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Shefflin - 'I'm 36 not 26'

Shefflin - 'I'm 36 not 26'

SPORTSFILE

Shefflin - 'I'm 36 not 26'

Shortly before noon yesterday, in the car park of Langton's Hotel in Kilkenny city, Henry Shefflin checked into a WhatsApp group on his phone to let them know that his days with them were over.

Certainly, in a formal sense, because for the first time since 1999, he won't be aboard the Kilkenny squad when they set out on the All-Ireland adventure in June. The recipients of his message knew it was coming.

GAA players - however distinguished - don't hold press conferences to announce that they are playing on so it was clear from Tuesday lunchtime that Shefflin's days in the black-and-amber were over.

He admitted to being somewhat emotional as he pressed the 'send' button on his phone. He had received quite a few similar messages from long-standing colleagues over the last few months, each removing another little chip from a famous edifice.

Of course, the show goes on. Some very famous names have departed the Kilkenny scene but they still remain favourites to retain the All-Ireland title. The empire never sleeps.

Indeed, there were so many sound reasons why he might have stayed on to pursue an 11th All-Ireland medal that it would have been easy to sign up for another campaign. Granted, his role would almost certainly have been as a sub but, in any season, circumstances can change.

Still, as he considered the situation in the days after Ballyhale won the All-Ireland club title, his instincts advised him it was time to go.

"I'm 36 years, not 26," he said.

And, as he watched some eager young Kilkenny talent clattering into Clare last Sunday, he was reminded of himself 20 years ago.

He didn't attend the game in Nowlan Park, where he would have been pestered by questions about his future. Instead, he watched it at home with wife, Deirdre, and came to conclusion: 'My time is up'.

Brian Cody neither advised him to stay or go. His policy with long-serving players has always been to allow them make up their minds without influence.

Shefflin said that he would have loved to be back training with Kilkenny last Tuesday night but he had made the break and now life was moving on to a new phase.

His club will benefit from his extra spare time while he will also be busy over the next few months, working on his autobiography, which is being co-written with the Irish Independent's Vincent Hogan.

It was impossible not to spot the irony of his retirement announcement, which came four days before Kilkenny face a huge test against Clare. A defeat would see Kilkenny relegated for the first time since 1993, a year in which they were also the defending All-Ireland champions,

A large crowd turned out to witness Shefflin's sign-off on a day when Kilkenny chairman Ned Quinn spoke for all Kilkenny supporters.

"I don't think we'll ever see your likes again," he told Shefflin.

Irish Independent