'Shefflin continually surprising us,' says Dempsey ahead of a possible 10th medal
HENRY Shefflin is 36 on January 11th next year and on his player profile inside in the media booklet provided by the Kilkenny county board and sponsors, Avonmore, at the recent pre All-Ireland final press night, it seems they have had to reduce the font size which they note his honours so as to squeeze into the shape allotted beside Shefflin's picture.
So when they finally develop a quadratic equation to measure that all-encompassing, non-specific GAA trait 'hunger,' only then will we fully realise that its physical manifestation was hurling away in a green helmet all this time.
"We've tried to tailor Henry's programme but it's difficult because he just wants to be training all of the time," says selector and team trainer, Mick Dempsey.
Not unsurprisingly either.
"He is supremely dedicated and ambitious and he is probably one of our best trainers.
"But obviously we have to take account of his injuries and his workload. A very young player who comes into the squad, and a player at the other end of it, probably need to do less training than everybody else.
"The ideal age group in terms of increasing their workload is probably somewhere in between, 22, 23 to late 20s.
"But Henry has the habit of training really hard and doing a lot of work on his own.
"We do try to tailor it, and I think he is listening now."
Henry. Always Henry.
Back in 2010, there were duelling narratives; Kilkenny's five-in-a-row and the sustainability of Shefflin's knee.
Now, it's whether he starts and most compellingly, if he wins a tenth All-Ireland medal.
"He continually surprises you," Dempsey, a member of Brian Cody's back room team since 2005, adds.
"As a result of the injuries he has had, he does need to be careful not to overload.
"Recovery is much more important to him now than it would have been in previous years, and he is listening.
"But who am I to argue with the likes of Henry Shefflin who has been so successful, if he wants to go off and do a little bit of extra work on his own?
"We try to reign him in as best we can but sometimes you have to listen to the player as well.
"If he feels it's actually working for him, we can't ignore it. It's not just about what we think; we've got to take the individual into account as well.
"We'll obviously give him the best advice based on the injuries he has had, how he is actually going but we also have to work along with him as well."
Shefflin has always been the poster boy for attitude overcoming any obstacle and you get the feeling that Cody, Dempsey et al took as much satisfaction from the gruelling, grinding nature of the Limerick victory in this year's All-Ireland semi-final than they did they sleek and dominant way in which they trampled the same opposition in the 2007 final.
The sight of Colin Fennelly's block on Graeme Mulcahy or Eoin Larkin evacuating his attacking role in order to sweep late on shows the harmonious way with which attrition mixes with talent in Kilkenny.
"Ultimately I think that's what makes a huge difference," says Dempsey.
"You can have great individual players but if they're no willing to sacrifice their own game at particular times then you're not going to get the result you're looking for.
"But it does give you a great satisfaction to see a player make the ultimate sacrifice, to do something for the team that would not have been in the conventional role, possibly, years ago.
"I mean, we got knocked out of the championship early (last year) so that opened our eyes," Dempsey adds
"And obviously there was a challenge for us. But we took it on board and thankfully, we're back in the All-Ireland final."