Shefflin says Kilkenny not obsessed by Dubs rematch
BY HIS own admission, he’ll be a fascinated spectator on Saturday for the Leinster SHC semi-final but Henry Shefflin insists there is no appetite amongst the Kilkenny squad to get another crack at their national Hurling League Final conquerors, Dublin, in the provincial final.
Anthony Daly’s men could potentially set up a third final of the season against the Cats if they beat Galway in Tullamore on Saturday, and after scalping Brian Cody’s wounded troops in both the league and Walsh Cup deciders, a Dublin win would hand Kilkenny the opportunity to set the record straight back in Croke Park two weeks from next Sunday.
But Shefflin – who came through his first competitive match since cruciate ligament surgery on Saturday in Kilkenny’s routine semi-final victory over Wexford – insists there is no residual animosity from the league decider, despite Dublin’s emphatic victory.
Asked if a Dublin win would be Kilkenny’s preference for Saturday night, Shefflin replied: “I think ye know the answer to that,” before adding, “I wouldn’t say so, no. I’m looking forward to the match next Saturday night.
“Whoever comes out of it, will be in good stead. But I don’t think we would look at it like that.”
Shefflin sat out the League final but watched as Dublin put in their most commanding performance of the Daly era and capitalised on an under par Kilkenny display to clock up a massive 12-point win.
The Ballyhale man insists, however that “if they had played anyone in the country that day, I think they would have won because they played so well” and was adamant that he could not pick a winner for Saturday night.
“They’re very even teams,” he added. “Dublin are hurling very well. Galway have plenty of talent. They could have beaten Tipp last year. It should be a great game of hurling.”
Regarding his own fitness, Shefflin gave his comeback night a tentative thumbs up. He played the full 70 minutes in Wexford Park and clocked up nine points, eight of which came from placed balls and generally, appeared comfortable in his movements.
He revealed that Sunday morning brought with it a slight pain but added, “that could be the age thing coming into it now too.
“I’m happy enough how I’m moving more than anything else,” he said. “The hurling aspect would hopefully come as I get more matches. Once you feel you’re moving freely, that’s the key to it for me.”
Back in August of last year, Shefflin’s knee became the most talked-about body part in Ireland when 10,000 people showed up to Nowlan Park to witness his attempt at a miracle and play in an All-Ireland final just weeks after tearing the cruciate ligament.
An intense programme of building up the muscles around the knee with sports injury specialist Ger Hartmann followed but his final lasted just 12 minutes, at which point the knee gave way.
Shefflin revealed he contemplated the dark notion that he may never return to the Kilkenny jersey again but said once he was given the green light by the relevant medical personnel, he put his misery behind him.
“Did I think it might be the end? You don’t know. You have the dark days after it happened when you’re getting the surgery,” he said.
“You have negative days some days. Sometimes in work you’re in good form and some days you’re not. There are days where you’re wondering will you get back to the level where you’re going to be able to play inter-county hurling. So there is. But that’s very early on.
“When the surgeon is testing your knee and telling you it’s going to be fine, you just have to drive on. Again, you would feel that there is a chance.”
Shefflin also insisted that given the opportunity to do it all again and risk long-term injury by undergoing such intensive treatment to play a part in an All-Ireland final, he would have no hesitation.
“I was able to run, I was able to jog and twist and turn – obviously not quite to the extent that I would have liked – but I was able to do most things,” he explained. “But if I was able to do all that and I was sitting in the stands, I would be thinking ‘Jesus, like...’. You would always wonder. I have no wonders now.
“John Tennyson was lucky enough to come through it. I felt OK on it. I was doing OK and I was happy enough with it in training but I made a move and the knee was strong enough. But I would have always been thinking ‘what if ?’,” Shefflin added. “And now I don’t have that.”