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‘You can’t be thinking about Henry’ – TJ Reid on facing Shefflin

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Newly appointed Galway manager Henry Shefflin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Newly appointed Galway manager Henry Shefflin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Newly appointed Galway manager Henry Shefflin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

TJ Reid isn’t thinking about the day, but he knows it is coming: Kilkenny are facing Galway next season and he bumps into Henry Shefflin at the local shop in the days beforehand.

How will that conversation go?

Yes, it will be strange, Reid conceded, but then he clarified: “Sport is sport. You have to have tunnel vision yourself – you can’t be thinking about Henry. You have to go out and, I suppose, die for your own jersey.

“Yeah, look, it’ll be a bit of banter and a bit of craic leading up to any game we play. If I meet him down in the local shop or down at the hurling pitch, there’ll be a bit of banter about it.

“But it’s a long way away yet. For ourselves, we’ll just be concentrating on two weeks’ time and the club.”

The D-Day to which he refers is the Kilkenny SHC decider, on Sunday week, between four-in-a-row-chasing Ballyhale Shamrocks and O’Loughlin Gaels. Shefflin was Reid’s manager for the first two of those county titles, preludes to consecutive Leinster and All-Ireland club victories.

And before that, this deadly duo had shared multiple triumphs as Ballyhale team-mates and as Kilkenny comrades under Brian Cody.

Next year, however, Shefflin will be managing Galway in direct Leinster opposition to his native Cats – and Reid too, presuming that Kilkenny’s talisman, 34 next month, carries on.

Like everyone else, Reid professed shock at last week’s news that “the auld neighbour” was Galway-bound. “Sure, all of us saw Davy Fitz nearly getting the job. I think it was the Monday that I’d seen it on Joe.ie, that Davy was getting the job; then on Wednesday the news broke that Henry got it, so it was a big surprise, a big surprise for us all.

“Henry is a dedicated man, committed to everything he does; he’s going up there to win. He’s travelling six-seven hours of a round trip to do it. He’ll be going up there to win, absolutely. And Galway have a serious outfit.

“Henry and Richie O’Neill are heading up, he was with us back there two or three years ago as well.

“He (O’Neill) is his coach, so they’re a very good team and I wish Henry all the best. But obviously if you’re up against them in league or Leinster, it’s a different story then.”

Meanwhile, the man who replaced Shefflin as Shamrocks boss has admitted that friends tried to dissuade him from accepting the challenge of inheriting back-to-back All-Ireland champions.

James O’Connor steered Ballyhale to a Kilkenny SHC hat-trick in his maiden campaign, and now has them on the cusp of four-in-a-row after Sunday’s semi-final win over James Stephens.

“I was advised not to take it, straight off, by a number of colleagues of mine in the hurling quarters. They said, you know, ‘Jesus, don’t go in there. You go in there and, if it doesn’t work out, you’re branded then because of it,’” the former Waterford defender recounted.

“I’ve been very lucky over the last number of years, in Cork and in Waterford. I’ve won counties and Munster titles so, to come in here and if it went belly-up, it would have been a huge blow. But thankfully last year was a great year, had a brilliant experience with them, and they’re a brilliant bunch of lads to train.

“People say it’s pressure – and, yeah, it is pressure, but I thrive on the pressure, I’ll be honest with you. I like it out there.

“But it’s like a drug – you’re just driven by it and look forward to next week. Like, I just can’t wait for two weeks’ time again.


 


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