Wednesday 13 December 2017

Henry Shefflin: 'Is there an opportunity for yourself to be sitting on the bench and maybe not playing?'

Shefflin: Time was right to call it a day after all the glory

Henry Shefflin with his wife Deirdre after a press conference where he announced his retirement from inter-county hurling. Set Theatre, The Langton Hotel, Kilkenny.
Henry Shefflin with his wife Deirdre after a press conference where he announced his retirement from inter-county hurling. Set Theatre, The Langton Hotel, Kilkenny.

WHILE there was no distant whirring of an overhanging CNN News-copter above Langton's on John's Street in central Kilkenny city yesterday at noon, Henry Shefflin's press conference had just about everything besides.

Seven live T.V. cameras. National and local media galore. Reams of radio.

Even Henry, frosty cool to the very end, looked a bit taken aback.

"It is a bit crazy, to be honest," he laughed after the deed was done.

"I was sitting at home today preparing for this event and I didn't know what to expect."

READ MORE: 'There is a killer inside Henry'

Family, friends and associates of Shefflin's were there too, and by the time he arrived, immaculately presented, just at the crack of noon, an overflow area had been opened on the balcony of the small theatre in which the press had gathered, in order that witness be borne and respects paid by the many, many members of the public who showed up on spec.

Naturally then, there was a standing ovation when, as expected, Shefflin calmly announced the end of the greatest hurling career of all time.

The interesting bits were in the detail, though.

Of all the conversations Henry Shefflin had over the past week, during which time he made up his mind not to continue for a 17th season with Kilkenny, the most satisfying one was with Brian Cody and the most emotional, with the men left aboard the squad, via text.

"We had a general chit/chat afterwards and we said it was phenomenal what we had achieved, etc," Shefflin recalled of the tea-and-scone natter he had with Cody, the man with whom his decision to retire has broken something of a symbiotic relationship.

"He was very complimentary to me.

"And one of the nicest things he said to me was 'Henry, you've got the very best out of yourself.'

"And for me, that is what I would hope I would try and do. I didn't go out every day and every game and do the best for myself.

"But when I was 16, 17...did they think we were going to have an occasion like today? And when you hear the figures, the success we've had. I didn't.

"So I definitely got the best out of myself on the field of play. And I think I've learned something from that I can transfer to off the field of play."

The penny dropped, he said, on Sunday when watching Kilkenny duke it out with Clare on TG4.


Not that Shefflin felt he couldn't stand that sort of heat anymore, he just felt detached from what he was watching.

"People ask me, 'are you emotional?' and things like that and that was one of the emotional parts of it," he explained of his final contribution to the Kilkenny senior panel's WhatsApp group.

"I sent them a message out in the carpark (just prior to the beginning of the press conference).

"I used to be very sad when I used to look up the messages when one of the lads has left the group and the next minute. there's a lovely message from him saying, 'thanks very much for everything'.

"I had to do that at half eleven out in the car park in Langton's today. That was very sad.

"I wouldn't be here today without those lads.

"We've so many good memories on and off the field of play and I'm going to miss them so that was the only emotional thing about it, saying goodbye to the lads."

Nor did Shefflin shy away from the fact that sitting on the bench last year had some sway on his call.

"I'm in good physical condition. There's a good opportunity of Kilkenny being successful (this year)," he reasoned.

"It's March time now, there's only a few months to go. And, you know, your heart telling you you don't want to let go. They were very much the arguments for staying on.

"Then you were like, 'Is now the best time to go? You're 36 years of age. It's a great opportunity'. There was so many other things that, on a positive side as well, and just when I weighed them all up, now was the correct time to make the decision.

"And as well, you do look... do you want to go in and be a sub and not play? All those things come into it. I'm not going to be human if I didn't say that so.

"You look and you say, 'Is there an opportunity for yourself to be sitting on the bench and maybe not playing?'

"I love playing the game, that's what I love doing, so all those things, you weigh up all those things and you make the right decision for yourself then."



There have been one or two, even in a career as make-believe successful as Shefflin's.

"Playing in that All-Ireland in 2010," he replied, immediately opting for the day he attempted to defy medicine and his own knee by playing in the Five-in-a-row final against Tipperary minus his cruciate ligament.

"If I could go back and do it again, would I do it? No.

"I, myself, would. But I think Brian and the medical team would look back and realise it was not the right thing to do.

"And I'm sure there were matches when I didn't perform.

"There were occasions when I didn't enjoy myself as much as I should, where I put too much pressure on myself.

"But overall, that's the whole learning experience of it. When I was younger, I probably didn't enjoy the whole success of it. I just moved on to the next year and said 'what do I have to do to get ready?'

"As I got older," Shefflin added, "I realised that I really did need to experience and embrace the whole occasion."

And with that, the King was gone, having abdicated in as much style as he ruled.


the king steps down

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