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Success makes rehab easier, admits recovering Henry Shefflin

“I hold my hands up to all those players playing in the lower divisions who suffer the injuries we suffer, but don’t get the profile out of it.”

Henry Shefflin was speaking at the launch of Centre's 'Brighten Up Your Day' Community Events
Henry Shefflin was speaking at the launch of Centre's 'Brighten Up Your Day' Community Events
Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

IT’S TOUGH AT the top, isn’t it?

Always there to be shot at, always a crosshair searching to fix on you. But up there is where all the trappings of success are to be found.

Henry Shefflin has been beavering away at the highest of heights for over a decade. He is arguably the greatest stickman this country has ever produced and his increasingly-burdened mantlepiece holds more silverware than a magpies nest.

But despite never missing a championship game since debuting for Kilkenny in 1999, Shefflin has had troughs to go with his many peaks. Most notably cruciate knee injuries in 2007 and 2010, and a shoulder injury that is currently keeping him out of action.

For a county and a man on first-name terms with success, the Ballyhale Shamrock is keenly aware of the advantage he holds over most hurlers in the land when working back from injury. Slogging through the monotony of each rehabilitation exercise, King Shefflin knows he, unlike most players, will be back in the spotlight soon — possibly earning a record ninth All-Ireland crown.

“It does make it easier that I’m playing with Kilkenny and we’ve been successful,” Shefflin admits. “With any of the top counties, it’s probably easier do it. Well I hold my hands up to all those players playing in the lower divisions who suffer the injuries we suffer, but don’t get the profile out of it. Who do the work and go back and play for the love of it.

“That’s something I keep in my head and I hold my hands up to all the people who do that. That’s part and parcel of it but it does make it easier, because I can dream of playing in Croke Park. That’s my goal and that’s my drive.”

Darragh Hynes operated on Shefflin’s shoulder and it seems a recovery period of six months will remain true to form. ”I’m able to swing a hurl but the dynamics of it (means my arm movement) sticks at the shoulder,” Shefflin said. “I’m grand low down, it’s when I go over my head it starts to catch on me; it’s a bit tight and bit sore up over my head.

“I’m able to do a lot of the stuff on the ground and I can puck the ball off walls and stuff. But I wouldn’t be doing any major jumping or catching balls or things like that. So that’s where I am and I suppose that’s something that’s coming slowly but surely. And I suppose once that comes, you can get into contact. The contact is the last thing.

“A lot of it depends on when and how I come back. If I can get back a week or two early – it all depends on timeframes. With long-term injuries – I’m sure Eoin (Kelly) will tell you – some weeks you feel you’re ahead of progress and the next thing you’re back so it’s just to hit each target as it comes along.”

After three major injuries in the space of just over four years, it would be no surprise if Shefflin began to worry about the longer-term implications on his health.
“Look, you would, but it’s short-term gain at the moment. I do what I do because I love it. Long-term wise, it’s something that I’ll probably have to cross. Look, to be fair, the knees are obviously a bit funny and you have to mind them. I spoke to the surgeon about my knees and I am older so you’re going to have more aches and pains – that’s just part and parcel of it.”

Comeback

As ever, King Henry plan to make his initial comeback with Ballyhale, and feels he would push his body just as hard if he wasn’t playing at a higher level: “I think I would, of course I would. Playing with my club, that’s where I want to first get back. I’ll know myself by getting back with the club and that’s where I’ll go first of all. It makes it easier and my goals are a bit different, and that’s why I hold up my hands to anyone who can’t see the big days of the summer, and still does it. It’s a great thing to do.”

The success of the Shamrocks and the onset of injuries has limited Shefflin’s involvement in the League in recent years, yet he has kept more than a close on on proceedings. ”There’s a lot (of teams) on the horizon – I think the National League has shown that.

“The lads inside (Damien Hayes, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín and John Mullane) say a lot of the traditional teams are in development but I don’t buy that one bit. If you’re telling me that Galway and Cork would come along with young lads who can’t win, you’d be wrong. There’s a lot of teams there and it’s a very competitive championship. The league has shown that anyone can beat anyone.

“Cork had to beat Kilkenny last week and they beat them; Waterford had to beat Galway and they beat them. That’s the way the league has been and I think it’ll show up in the championship.”

Where everyone is shooting at where Shefflin no doubt will be – foraging at the very top.

Henry Shefflin was speaking at the launch of Centre’s ‘Brighten Up Your Day’ Community Events

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About the author:

Shane Stapleton

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