Sport Hurling

Friday 23 March 2018

Cody defends call to play King Henry

Cats boss insists star man was 'ready' and backs him to return next year

KILKENNY manager Brian Cody has staunchly defended the decision to start Henry Shefflin against Tipperary and believes the nine-time All Star will battle his way back from his latest injury blow to once again grace the black and amber jersey.

Shefflin's knee injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) broke down just 12 minutes into the All-Ireland final and the wisdom of starting him was immediately questioned.

Shefflin himself stressed afterwards: "people will say it wasn't right starting, but it felt good. I trained twice on it and I'd been at home pucking around on it. I just went for a ball, went to go around Shane McGrath, pivoted off my left foot and whatever was hanging on just went.

"It's very disappointing for me, and for everyone who helped me get on the field, to only last 10 minutes. But John Tennyson lasted the game, so it was right to start, it just didn't work out for me."

"It was never a question of taking a gamble, or of making a final call," Cody insisted of the match fitness of both Shefflin and Tennyson. He confirmed the pair had suffered the same ACL injuries in the previous six weeks and defied medical opinion to start.

"Henry and John were being treated by Ger Hartmann. I had personally seen the work they were doing and it was just extraordinary stuff. You wonder how they could do it when they were injured," Cody revealed.

"Their first night back they did a full training session, flat out. There was no sympathy given to them, no concessions given to them.

"They went out and performed as if they were never injured and did it for the next training session, and the following week again.Their injuries never manifested themselves at all in those training sessions," he emphasised.

He said the decision to play them was made jointly by the management, the medical team and the players themselves and that Tennyson's survival for the full 70 minutes demonstrated that "they were ready".


Cody did concede that Sunday's wet conditions were an additional new variable that Kilkenny couldn't control, but he stressed there was no extra danger of Shefflin exacerbating his injury, or doing any long-term damage, by playing on it.

"Worst comes to the worst he has the same injury as he had after the Cork game and if he requires an operation, which obviously it will need now, then so be it," Cody explained.

Shefflin reportedly suffered a lot of pain after Sunday's recurrence and will definitely need surgery and six to eight months' recovery -- which will also knock him out of Ballyhale Shamrocks' All-Ireland club title bid.

Given that he turns 32 next January and went through the same gruelling rehab with his right knee in 2007-2008, there are fears that this could end his magnificent 12-year inter-county career.

But Cody backed the two-time Hurler of the Year to make a full comeback for the Cats.

"It's tough and it's brutal. Henry is facing a tough couple of months but there's not a more driven or more competitive sportsperson alive probably," the Kilkenny boss said.

"Nobody has more passion for it, or more drive and commitment and enthusiasm to be the best. Henry's done it, he is the best, and he's kept himself up there for a long period.

"I know, deep down, in his heart of hearts, he'll want to play in Croke Park again for Kilkenny and I'd say that it would be everyone else's desire that he will as well."

And the Cats boss resolutely refused to blame injuries for Sunday's defeat.

"I think it is completely wrong to take that slant because so much has been made over the years of how strong a panel we have," Cody stressed.

"You don't want to lose players, but you can't take anything away from Tipperary. I wouldn't even begin to try because I'm certain in my head that Tipperary were excellent and deserved to win the match."

He said all the talk of the five-in-a-row had not made his players complacent, particularly because they were playing a Tipperary side that had pushed them so hard in the All-Ireland and league finals last year.

Win or lose, Cody never makes snap decisions on his future and the man who has led Kilkenny to 10 finals and seven All-Ireland titles in his 12 years in charge indicated as much again.

However, he did express confidence that this Kilkenny team will be back fighting for top honours again next year, whoever is in charge.

"If I was concerned about being recognised as something important, I could have gone when we won the three-in-a-row," added Cody.

"It would have been a lovely way to go and a lot of people said 'if you were clever now, go' -- but I'm not too clever I think!"

Irish Independent

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