HE ASSUMED A special status in hurling a long time ago and yesterday was just an affirmation of that.
For the ninth time in his career, Henry Shefflin was part of a Kilkenny squad in a triumphalist mood on All-Ireland senior hurling final day. He did his fair share in securing the latest success as he provided nine points of the Cats total of 3-20 and gave a performance of wonderful leadership.
Afterwards he basked in the glow of a victory that held greater significance because of the recovery he has had to undergo since suffering a serious shoulder injury last winter.
“If you’d spoken to me the Monday after the Leinster final this year, I’d have had serious question marks about myself, let alone Kilkenny,” Shefflin told TheScore.ie. “To reach this now after the summer, I’d have to say this is definitely the sweetest.
“I just think this one captures my whole career more than anything else. The Monday before we played Dublin in the first round of the Leinster championship, this year I went down to puck a few balls off a wall and I couldn’t puck the ball because my shoulder was at me. To come from that stage to here is sweet.
“Getting scans between the Dublin and Galway match, my mind wasn’t totally in it, I was more concerned about my shoulder. At that stage I spoke to a few people and I said I’d put all those things in the past, look forward and start training. That’s what I’ve done. It’s been perfect since then.”
Reaching the personal milestone of nine All-Ireland medals on the field of play ensured Shefflin would command the spotlight in the wake of this clash. And the Ballyhale Shamrocks admitted that feat was something he embraced in the build-up to the game.
“To win the ninth medal, myself and Noel today, is a special feeling. People have been looking to talk to me about it beforehand and they’ve said they’d love to see me win it. I’ll be honest with you I decided that I was going to say that I would love to win it.
“There was no point hiding from it and it was a great motivation for me. Why would you hide from something that’s so special like that? This year as well the whole thing revolved from the loss in the Leinster final and then having the whole thing of an All-Ireland final replay is something I’ve never experienced before.
“I got to cherish it more and I got to train for another three weeks in the build up to an All-Ireland. To play two All-Ireland’s in one year with the crowd out there in Croke Park is a wonderful occasion.
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
“To be fair Brian (Cody) and the management team deserve great kudos. They made some serious changes. Aidan Foagrty and Colin Fennelly were very unlucky to lose out. I think as well the man-marking we did the last day worked to a certain extent but they decided to go away from that. Brian wanted us to go back to play like Kilkenny have always played under his stewardship. That was key today.”
“We said we wouldn’t panic as well today. The last day we panicked after Joe got the goal. It was such a lift for them but we forced the situation after. We didn’t panic today, we stayed at it and we got some great scores. It’s a testament to the players and the character of the team that we didn’t drop our heads and we kept going.”
And the iconic attacker seems determined to stay operating at the highest stage if he can put his injury troubles behind him.
“I just want to be able to sit down this winter and not have an operation to look forward to. Once I do that, at my stage of the career you always review and evaluate and stuff like that. I’d love to be back again and hopefully my body will allow me to do that.”