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Thursday 8 December 2016

Shefflin's old mates 'still the team to beat' this summer

Henry Shefflin
Henry Shefflin

HENRY SHEFFLIN has walked away from the Nowlan Park dressing-room after ten All-Ireland triumphs ... and he wouldn't be remotely surprised if Brian Cody, his one and only Kilkenny boss, makes it 11 in his absence.

If all the media rumours - effectively confirmed by the great man himself yesterday - come to pass, Shefflin will be swapping his hurl for a studio microphone this summer.

He was given some early punditry training when meeting the press at Kellogg's Cúl Camps sponsorship launch in Croke Park, where he was asked if Kilkenny are still the team to beat?

"They're champions so they are still the team to beat," he concurs, while quickly adding: "Getting to a Leinster final will be very important this year for Kilkenny. I would have always said it in the sense of avoiding the qualifiers ... if you're in a provincial final, you're in a quarter-final (at least) so it's only one extra game.

"They are the team, to be honest - I'm gonna say that anyway!"

Yet, as Kilkenny's recent brush with relegation inferred, the All-Ireland landscape has changed from when the Cats - and Shefflin - were in their late noughties, four-in-a-row pomp.

"There is definitely an opportunity. They are a team in transition and the expectation level is not as strong as it was in other years, definitely," he surmises.

For all that, Shefflin doesn't believe the public should read too deeply into Kilkenny's fraught league form until they came strong at the death with back-to-back wins over Clare, the latter in a relegation play-off.

He disputes the notion that demotion would have been destabilising.

"If they'd been relegated there'd have been a lot of things said - like some of the experienced players were injured, the Ballyhale lads weren't playing," he says, in reference to decorated club colleagues such as TJ Reid, Michael and Colin Fennelly, plus new county skipper Joey Holden.

"When you put them back into the mix it's a different situation. And the league is so competitive as well, so it only takes two or three bad games and bad results and that's it. It (relegation) wouldn't have been nice; of course it wouldn't have been. I don't think it would have been anything detrimental."

As we speak, Shefflin is mulling over several approaches to do media work this summer. "It's been print and radio and television. It's only happened in the last week or so, so I'm only in talks at the minute, just to see what the options are," he reports, without giving away too much.

After the huge media furore over his retirement, he is asked if there has been any moment when he wondered out loud if he had made the right choice.

"I can answer that one straight off: no, not one moment," he says.

"I'm sure, during the summer, I'll think that when the big matches are on: 'Jesus, I'd love to be there'. But I don't think 'Should I have stayed?'... that's not in my mentality.

"Every so often we'd mention it at home and the conversation was 'You were right to go, it was the right time.' That honestly has popped up in conversation every so often - it was the right time."

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