AHEAD OF THIS Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC final replay, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has paid tribute to star man Henry Shefflin.
Shefflin is widely considered to be one of the greatest hurlers ever, and his performance in the most recent clash between Kilkenny and Galway was a testament to this legacy.
Unsurprisingly so, his manager Brian Cody speaks in glowing terms about his performance that day.
“He’s had a serious career for a long time, overcoming serious injuries,” he says. “But when I talk about Henry, he was outstanding, but he’s the ultimate team player and his intent, always, is to influence the game for the benefit of the team.
“It’s not about him scoring phenomenal amounts, though he’s capable of doing that, it’s the work-rate he showed in the second half, which was key to the whole thing.”
Cody also explains that Shefflin’s move to centre-forward during the game was made with his recent injury troubles in mind.
“Obviously he’s been missing out on a huge amount of preparation, early training, for the past while. That would make it difficult for him and you want to make it as easy for him as possible, but he’s in phenomenal shape. He gets himself into peak condition and he could play anywhere. He loves that position and we put him there before half-time the last day.
“Who knows where he’ll be the next day. I don’t know myself yet, to be honest.”
And while Shefflin’s performance against Galway was widely praised, there was one moment that he may have been left regretting come the final whistle.
When his side were presented with an opportunity to extend their advantage after being awarded a penalty, Shefflin opted to settle for a point rather than go for goal.
However, Cody refuses to lament this decision.
“He looked at me when that was given and I shrugged my shoulders – ‘I haven’t a clue what to do, do whatever you think yourself’.
That’s being totally honest.
“I’ve said it to him many times that I’m not going to tell him to go for a goal or a point, he decides that himself. He decided, he went for the point, if he’d gone for the goal and got it, brilliant, if he’d gone for the goal and it had been saved, I’d have said ‘fair play to you’. And that’s it.
“He has assumed leadership at all times and he doesn’t need to be told what to do in free-taking situations and so on.”
For all his heroics, Shefflin, at 33, won’t be available for selection for too much longer – a fact that Cody claims he isn’t overly concerned with.
“It doesn’t worry me who picks it up and drives it on, but it’s the team, the team, the team. It’s the panel, the whole thing, and all you ask of everybody is that they try their best.
“Sometimes it’ll go their way and they’ll influence the game, other times it won’t, but as long as you’re working, chasing, doing the nitty-gritty, you’re doing a job. It might not be as flamboyant or stand out as much as other players, but to get so much right the way he did the last day . . . it’s not easy.”