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Thursday 23 October 2014

Shefflin insists Cats' conduct remains firmly within the law

IT started with Ger Loughnane several years ago and spread to isolated back-biting and bitching which probably comes with the sort of total domination Kilkenny have wielded on hurling over the past decade or so.>

Kilkenny say, yes, they are physical and, look, isn't it a physical game? Yet some of the discontented murmurs have denigrated them as dirty and it's entirely important to make the distinction, as Henry Shefflin points out.

"I thought there were certain things that came out in the press that to be fair, good hurling people all over the country said didn't make sense," reflected Shefflin yesterday.

"This thing that we're told to flick with the wrists... I don't even know myself. It's the backs that get the blame, us forwards seem to be alright," he added.

If anything, Kilkenny privately feel they were on the receiving end of some pretty harsh treatment this year, incidents which caused serious injury to both Michael Rice and TJ Reid, and are therefore aggrieved and stoically against the perception that they are the law-breakers.

"I spoke to an ex-intercounty player who was very upset about it," he explained. "I asked why and he said 'I'm coaching 12 and 14-year-old kids down here and it's tarnishing me with a brush that we're teaching kids how to do this thing which is totally off the wall'.

"To be fair, I think it was a very good point. We mark these lads in training and there doesn't seem to be any serious injuries.

"Yes, they're tough men and they play hard and they need to play hard but that's an aspect of the game.

"I think some of the stuff that came out from one or two people for whatever reason was a bit off the ball. There was no proof in the pudding."

It's 99 per cent certain that Shefflin will be back next year, but in what pre-summer guise remains a mystery for now.

Consume

He has the Kilkenny SHC final next Sunday against Dicksboro to consume his thoughts first and then, if the formbook holds up, a Leinster club campaign.

Oddly, he has no injuries to contend with this winter.

Last year, a shoulder problem was threatening his career and a season previous, a severed cruciate did likewise, which makes it all the more miraculous that he has never missed a Championship match under Brian Cody and why he could be forgiven for possibly viewing his participation in next year's league as somewhat sporadic.

"What I'd love to do when the season is over is to sit down and have the body good with no injury concerns. Then I'd reflect.

"Obviously I'd love to be in a position then to say 'no bother at all'. I'd be foolish to definitely say 'yes'.

"But please God everything will be alright over the next few weeks and then look forward to the 2013 season," said Shefflin.

As Hurler of the Year for the third time, a nine-time All-Ireland medalist and now 11-time All-Star, the temptation to go out on a high is strong, but not quite as forceful as his competitive instinct to win more.

"It'd be brilliant to walk away on a high," he admits.

"But I've based my career on playing the game more than anything else. It'd be a bit artificial to think differently. I've loved been involved and if I stay fit enough, I'd love to stay involved," concluded the Ballyhale Shamrocks legend.

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