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The young Kilkenny defender with a famous last name on being managed by Henry, DJ and Cody

Evan Shefflin is hoping to lift the Leinster U20 crown tonight.
Jul 17th 2019, 12:07 PM 12,776 0

STILL JUST 19, Evan Shefflin could hardly have enjoyed a better education in his young hurling career to date.

pjimage Henry Shefflin, DJ Carey and Brian Cody.

His uncle Henry Shefflin, arguably the greatest of them all, is his manager at club level, while legendary Cat DJ Carey is his U20 county boss. 

Marking the likes of TJ Reid and Adrian Mullen at club training over the years has clearly benefited the defender.

After Ballyhale Shamrocks lifted their sixth All-Ireland club title in March, a call came from the most successful manager of all time, Brian Cody, for Shefflin to join the extended Kilkenny senior squad.

In a training game during his first night with the seniors, he found himself marking Richie Hogan.

But perhaps nothing has tested him like the pressure that comes with having one of the famous surnames in the GAA.

It all appears to rest easy with Shefflin. Tonight, he’ll hope to lead the Kilkenny U20s to victory in the Leinster final against Wexford. 

“Very insightful, very encouraging,” he says of his U20 manager.

“It’s DJ Carey, he knows what he’s talking about, so when whenever he talks you shut up and you listen to him. You take on board whatever he says to you, it’s as simple as that.

“He’s very watchful and just takes it all in. Obviously he’ll intervene if he has to, if it’s not good enough or whatever, but he just lets us hurl away. I think you kind of need that sometimes, just let lads go at each other for a while.

“If it’s not up to standard, he’ll come in and give us a bollocking, and we go back at it again. He’s very insightful and he sees everything, so he’s not going to miss much. You’re fooling no-one out there but yourself.

“He’s a very quiet man in general. Like I say, he’s very insightful, a very intelligent man. If he talks you listen, and whatever he has to say to you, you take it on board as much as possible.”

How does DJ compare to Henry on the sideline, he’s asked?

“They’re very similar, they have a good hurling brain the two of them, so it’s the same with Henry, when he talks, you listen and you take it on board. Henry tries to be hands-on, and obviously DJ does as well, but there’s only a certain amount a manager can do on his own. 

“There’s a lot of work put into it, I know myself, my father has managed teams before, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it. The manager having to train lads, and having all the physio work and all the strength and conditioning work, there’s a lot in it.

“I think taking a step back is probably the right thing to do at times, and then if he has to jump in, he will. I think that’s a good thing as well.”

Bord Gáis Energy GAA U-20 Hurling Provincial Championship Finals Preview Evan Shefflin was at the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U20 Provincial championship finals preview. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Incidentally, it’s 20 years to the day since Henry won his first Leinster U21 crown with the Cats. And Henry’s first senior All-Ireland final for Kilkenny on 12 September 1999 came on the same day Evan was born.

He has a long way to go before he’ll come close to Henry’s medal haul, but Evan has enjoyed a fruitful start to his senior career. Ballyhale’s St Patrick’s Day victory arrived on the back of a disappointing 2017 campaign was his first All-Ireland medal at senior level, although he’s already enjoyed considerable success with hurling nursery St Kieran’s College.

In Henry’s debut campaign as manager, he replenished the starting team with a number of talented youngsters. The new crop featured Evan and two other nephews of Henry’s – Brian and Eoin Cody.

After a testing Kilkenny campaign, they torched the opposition in the Leinster and the All-Ireland series.

“We hadn’t a great year before that, we lost to James Stephens, we got blown out of the water in the second half. Typical talk around Kilkenny, ‘Ballyhale are gone’ and all this.

Evan continues: “Henry came in then at Christmas time. The first thing he said was, ‘Look, just focus on winning Kilkenny’, and we put huge emphasis on that because obviously the league in Kilkenny absolutely massive.

“If you can do well in that it sets you up for championship well. Obviously, we rode our luck a small bit against Castlecomer in the semi-final, but we were just fully focused on what we had to do.

“Everyone put their shoulders to the wheel, and every one of us to a man worked really hard, and obviously you have to get lucky at times and thank God we did, and it brought us back here.

“We have a great reputation here thankfully, and we were probably a bit lucky on the day as I don’t know whether it was us being very good or St Thomas’ being unlucky on the day, it just seemed to all click for us.

“Even the goal Colin (Fennelly) got was a bit of a freak, and it kind of highlighted the whole day for us.”

Ballyhale Shamrocks celebrate after the game Ballyhale Shamrocks celebrate after their All-Ireland success. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Wexford are bidding to complete a clean sweep of provincial honours for the first time since 1970, having already collected the Leinster senior and minor crowns. 

“The minors and seniors are after meeting them now and there is a bit of added pressure on the U20s for this Leinster final to deliver,” said Wexford defender Eoin O’Leary.

“The Wexford fans will be, not expecting, but feeling optimistic in the home patch. We need to concentrate on our own game and block out that buzz around the county, but at the same time use it to our advantage. 

“It’s important for us to use this opportunity of the 16th man in Wexford Park to our advantage. At the same time, we need to keep the heads grounded and not buy into all the buzz. We need to concentrate on our own game and hopefully, that’ll get us over the line.”

Shefflin is looking forward to lining out in a rocking Wexford Park tonight.

“We are expecting a massive battle down there. I think they are expecting maybe 10,000 or 12,000 down there.

“We know what they’re going to bring, so we have to prepare for that. If not, they are going to blow us out of the water. We’re ready to go, so hopefully we will give it everything we have and we’ll see what happens.”

  • Wexford v Kilkenny, Leinster U20 hurling final, 7.30pm – TG4

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Kevin O'Brien

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