Shefflin must return in starting team, not as impact sub – Keher
KILKENNY legend Eddie Keher believes Henry Shefflin must be used from the start – and not in an impact sub role – when he returns from a troublesome foot injury later in the summer.
Keher ruled out any suggestion that the Ballyhale Shamrocks man could be deployed from the bench when he returns from his latest serious injury, which he picked up while on club duty against Wexford's Oulart-The Ballagh before Christmas.
"I doubt (he'll be used as an impact sub). It could be the case but it's hard to visualise it. It's hard to know when he'll make his first appearance but I think he'd be better off starting a game rather than coming in as an impact sub. Even if it's the second round, I'd say he should start."
And the six-time All-Ireland winner insists Shefflin is better utilised when operating around the full-forward line. Last year, he produced a stellar second half from centre-forward to help the Cats secure a replay in drawn All-Ireland final against Galway.
"I thought he might play that role last year but he was very fit for someone who had suffered injury and he was well able to cope with the half-forward line. I'd like to see him in the full-forward line and he could play a roving game from there," said Keher.
"The foot injury should hamper him more than the shoulder last year but he pulled us through all the difficult matches then."
Shefflin has started every championship game since Brian Cody took charge, a record that stretches all the way back to June 1999. However, complications with his injury mean he might not make the Cats' Leinster SHC opener against Offaly on June 9.
"If he doesn't (make the Offaly game) it won't be Henry's fault. He's working very hard on the injury. I know he has had a few setbacks. From talking to him recently I'd say – even though he didn't say it – that he's gearing himself up to try and be back for the championship.
"If anyone will get back, Henry will get back. Even if he doesn't make the first match, hopefully he can go on from there."
That Offaly game marks the start of Shefflin's hunt for an unprecedented 10th All-Ireland medal but after reaching the league final despite a shaky start to the campaign, Keher believes the Cats can cope without Shefflin and his clubmate TJ Reid.
"Michael Rice performed well the last day and he'll be a force, and he's looking for his place as well," said Keher.
"Lester Ryan played very well and you have Cillian Buckley in contention too. They are going to be strong even without Henry.
"TJ is one of the most skilful players I've seen for a long time. His ball control and striking and vision are absolutely fantastic. I'd love to see him back. I even love watching him in training. He's a fantastic hurler and he'll make a huge difference to Kilkenny when he's back."
Despite those injuries and the continuing absence of Cody from the sideline as he recovers from heart surgery, the Cats have been installed as clear favourites against a rejuvenated Tipperary in Sunday's league final clash at Nowlan Park.
"I'm sure (Cody) will be there in spirit and that he'll have a part to play at some stage. I don't know what's happening but I can't imagine him keeping totally away from it," said Keher.