King Henry Shefflin proves he is still top of his game
Ballyhale Shamrocks joint-manager Colm Bonnar has revealed that there is a renewed pep in the ‘King’s’ step.
Henry Shefflin was outstanding in Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland club hurling 2-17 to 1-15 semi-final win over Gort at O’Connor Park in Tullamore, shooting five points from play as Ballyhale put themselves within sight of a sixth Tommy Moore Cup success.
Having won ten All-Ireland SHC medals with Kilkenny, 36-year-old Shefflin now has the chance to add a third club title at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. After that, Shefflin will make a decision on his inter-county future but former Tipperary star Bonnar has “never seen him as hungry” for hurling as he is now.
Bonnar said: “Since we came back in the New Year, he seems to have got another step and he played all five challenges while the Kilkenny lads were away on holidays.
“We were saying, ‘no, we’ll play you in one or two’ but he wanted to play in them all.
“Yes, we have great players around him but he’s still winning his own ball.
“He’s not outside looking for the handy ball here and there.
“He won a lot of hard ball there and against very, very tough and worthy Galway champions.
“They (Gort) are unlucky because most Galway teams that come out of Galway go on to win an All-Ireland club title.”
Gort, who have lost two All-Ireland semi-finals in four years, were mowed down by a rejuvenated Ballyhale juggernaut.
The most successful team in the history of this competition will now aim for another title when they face off against Kilmallock on March 17.
Ballyhale were comfortable winners on Saturday, leading by nine points in the second half before pulling up with five to spare.
They hit 2-16 from play and built on a four-point half-time advantage, 2-9 to 1-8, after goals from brothers TJ and Eoin Reid cancelled out an early Michael Cummins green flag for Gort.
The Galway men battled gamely to the finish but their manager Gerry Spellman admitted a gulf in class between the sides.
He reflected: “Very disappointed. I thought our lads stayed at it well and kept going to the end, never gave up.
“From that point of view, great quality but there was probably a little bit more confidence and composure in the score-taking of Ballyhale.
“Maybe that comes with experience and winning and all of that.”
Nobody epitomises that winning mentality more than Shefflin – and it looks like there could be more to come.
, G Lally (1 65) & W Walsh 0-2 each, J Grealish & P Killilea 0-1 each.
Ballyhale – R Reid; K Nolan, J Holden, A Cuddihy; P Shefflin, M Fennelly, A Cummins; B Aylward, C Walsh; J Fitzpatrick, H Shefflin, TJ Reid; P Reid, C Fennelly, E Reid. Subs: R Corcoran for Cummins (37), B Cody for E Reid (56), M Dermody for P Shefflin (56), G Butler for Fitzpatrick (58).
Gort – G Lally; M McMahon, T Linnane, M Cummins; A Harte, G Lally, S Linnane; S Forde, Jason Grealish; R Cummins, M Mullins, G O’Donoghue; A Mullins, G Quinn, P Killilea. Subs: Jack Grealish for Killilea (41), W Walsh for Jason Grealish (43), C Helebert for Quinn (51), N Forde for S Forde (56), K Higgins for O’Donoghue (59).
ref – J Ryan (Tipperary)