Wednesday 21 March 2018

henry hype may harm kilkenny

Cyril Farrell

KILKENNY have always been experts at approaching All-Ireland finals from Low Key Road, whereas some others tend to drive up the motorway blaring their car horns.

That's why I suspect that Brian Cody and his back-room brains trust won't be too happy with the manner in which Henry Shefflin's return to training this week turned into something of a circus. That 8,000 people turned out at Nowlan Park on a Wednesday night to watch a training session is an invaluable promotion for the GAA and for hurling but may not be good for Kilkenny's preparations.

Knocking the Kildare-Down football semi-final off the back pages is not what they would have wanted, especially since they are already coping with the not-inconsiderable pressure of the five-in-a-row bid. Kilkenny managed to win the treble with no fanfare and somehow succeeded in adding a fourth without much hype either.

They were on their way to keeping it to a minimum ahead of this year's final too, but all has changed in the last few weeks. Suddenly, all the talk is of Henry Shefflin's chances of playing. And with Brian Hogan now ruled out, what of John Tennyson and Tommy Walsh?

None of this will faze Cody or probably most of the players either but there's always the danger that the sheer enormity of what they're trying to achieve will begin to niggle away in some minds. Having a crowd of 8,000 watching training increases that risk.

Meanwhile, Tipperary are working away quietly, away from the glare of public or media attention. It's a perfect build-up for them.

As for Shefflin and his role in the final, I have no doubt that unless he's showing 100pc fitness, Cody won't start him. The last thing Cody -- or indeed Shefflin -- would want is for the great man to start the final, only to have to retire early on. Imagine the lift that would give Tipperary.

If, on the other hand, Kilkenny started without him, they could assess exactly how things were going. Just as watching him leave the pitch would boost Tipperary, seeing him come on would be a massive lift to Kilkenny.

Irish Independent

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