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'Every player wants to start' - Henry Shefflin on the view from the bench
The 9-time All-Ireland winner accepts the bench has a role to play for Kilkenny.

IT’S A SIGHT that’s becoming more and more familiar, a Kilkenny starting XV without the name of Henry Shefflin in it.

And while the Ballyhale Shamrocks clubman would love to play from the throw-in in their All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final with Limerick in Croke Park on Sunday, he accepts that there are 26 players vying for 15 spots.

“Every player wants to start,” the 11-time All-Star said in the build up to the game this week.

“I read Paudie O’Sullivan in the lead up to the Munster final saying of course he wanted to be playing.

“We all want to be playing but unfortunately only 15 can play so all you can do is get yourself in the best position you can be in, that’s what I’m doing at the moment and I’m training very hard, I’m feeling good and enjoying training. Any more than that you can’t do.”

“Obviously you’re looking at that. I think during the match you’re probably thinking about that anyway when you’re playing.

“But I don’t think you can say to yourself, ‘oh right, there’s an area now I can go to’, I’m not that scientific.”

One reason Shefflin has had to adapt to a part-time role with Kilkenny this season is the foot injury that brought back memories of last year’s frustrating campaign.

That experience, however, at least made him realise quickly what the cause of the pain in his foot was.

“The minute I felt the ache in it, I had the experience of last year so I straight away knew that was it.

“To be fair the surgeon said, ‘you could chance going on with this and you’d be up and down or put it in a boot for a few weeks and you’ll be fine’.

“That was the diagnosis I took and I’m glad I did, I feel fine, I feel strong and I’m hoping in the long run it will be of benefit to me in that I didn’t go from last November all the way through.

“I had that break and I feel like I’m hungry for matches and I want to participate and my body feels good.”

Having been at the forefront of nine successful Liam MacCarthy campaigns, Shefflin is probably the best judge of how this Kilkenny team matches up with those of the past.

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I think the atmosphere is very positive this year because I think the players know that no matter what, and we’ve seen it, if players are showing form in training they will be playing.

“Last year there were a lot of injuries and we were struggling along. In hindsight then you can say players were struggling — they were struggling for form, struggling with injuries.”

The 35-year old also insists the county are always striving to better themselves and have taken some lessons from how Clare went about winning their All-Ireland last year.

“Because the quality of the use of the ball is a bit different now, [Clare] are trying to use it more.

“But I think we would have always tried to do that. We didn’t execute it very well last year because I’d say we didn’t have the ball a lot of the time, but I think it’s very much how the game… Richie [Hogan] and TJ [Reid] and these guys are getting serious possession, they’re very good hurlers, obviously Brian is drilling it into the lads to use the ball intelligently.

“It’s not anything scientific but that’s what we should always be doing. And there are times we should be direct. It’s just to do it at the right time.”

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