Friday 15 December 2017

'There is a killer inside Henry'

Shefflin and Cody
Shefflin and Cody

SOMETIMES a more interesting appraisals of a man's character come from those against whom he fought, rather than those with whom he soldiered.

Naturally for a man of his nature and hurler of his greatness, tributes flowed thickly and freely for Henry Shefflin upon his announcement yesterday that he would, after 16 gold-speckled seasons, end his inter-county career.

Yet one of the most revealing description of Shefflin as a player came from someone who once considered himself an onfield enemy - Donal Óg Cusack.

"There is a killer inside Henry Shefflin," Cusack wrote in his autobiography, Come What May.

"Like (Christy) Ring. There has to be. You see it in him, that's what makes him. He's a great player, but normally he passes himself off as a happy-go-lucky fella."

"You could see that he has that ruthlessness that the great ones have.

"He'd look you in the eye and fillet you with a knife at the same time if he needed to.

"He's a winner and he wants to win by as much as possible.

"That old thing about it not being enough for you to succeed, your enemies have to fail."

Kilkenny and Cork shared an at times bitter rivalry in the mid-to-late part of the last decade and Cusack did relations no discernible good when, memorably/infamously, he referred to Kilkenny as 'the GAA's version of the Stepford Wives.'

Recalling a League match in Nowlan Park immediately after the 2008 Cork players strike, when a patched-up, underprepared and vulnerable Cork team were torn to shreds by Shefflin and Kilkenny to a home crowd audibly baying for blood, Cusack wrote: "Late on, Kilkenny were awarded a 21-yard free and the crowd began chanting for Shefflin to go for goal. He didn't.

"There was a moment of panic near the end when he hit a shot at me, though.

"My foot placement was bad. I knew the ball was spinning and that I had to be set up properly. I had one foot in front of the other and the ball nearly spun off my stick away to my left and into the goal.

"I recovered just in time. There was a gasp of frustration from the crowd. They'd almost a perfect moment of humiliation to enjoy.

"That would have given Kilkenny the perfect day. In terms of fellas they wouldn't like here in Nowlan Park, I know I'm well up there (maybe in the top spot!).

"It didn't make my day any better to save that shot, but it didn't make Henry's any better either.


"And lots of men in stripey jerseys would have been smiling at each other and offering respects to their king.

"Henry came in to the square after the final whistle and shook my hand.

"He looked me in the eye and most of what he was saying to himself was, 'There you go now, Cusack, twenty-seven points.' Take that home with ya.' He knew. I knew."

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