Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Cathal Noonan/INPHO Henry Shefflin is aiming to win a third All-Ireland club title.
# Last Hurrah
'This could be your last day up there' - Is today Henry Shefflin's farewell to Croke Park?
A potential retirement decision is due after this afternoon’s game against Kilmallock.

BETWEEN CLUB AND county, Henry Shefflin has played in 17 senior All-Ireland Hurling finals (including replays).

But you get the sense that the Ballyhale Shamrocks forward will make sure to savour every second of today’s meeting with Kilmallock in the AIB club decider at Croke Park.

With no confirmation of his plans beyond today’s game just yet, it’s possible that it could be the last time we witness Shefflin in action at GAA headquarters.

At 36, he’s one of the elder statesman in a Ballyhale team that will be aiming to bring All-Ireland success back to the parish for the sixth time — and their third in nine seasons.

“This is our third final, so it’s a bit different. You probably know you don’t have to go up to Croke Park beforehand. The first time we would have had to go up to let players have a feel for the dressing rooms and the field itself,” said Shefflin.

“For some of the older players I think it’s more enjoyable because you are looking forward to it more. This could be your last day up there and that’s the way I think a lot of us will be approaching it.”

No player has had more experience of winning All-Ireland titles at club and county level, but Shefflin says it’s impossible to favour one over the other.

“I’m not going to come out and say one is better, because it just isn’t. They are totally different. For the moment the complete focus is on the club campaign, that’s the best one to win. But then when that’s finished and you go back to inter-county, that’s the best one to win then. And then you go back to club and the county title is the best one to win.

“We have been very fortunate to taste them all. People ask me the question a lot, ‘which is your best victory?’ I would actually say winning my first county final. When you grow up playing in a club, it’s not about winning a club All-Ireland, it’s winning a county championship.”

When Shefflin first made his way into the Ballyhale team, the club were playing at intermediate level in Kilkenny. Bob Aylward (37) and Aidan Cummins (36) were there too, so Shefflin isn’t the only one in the twilight of his career. And he doesn’t believe they’re slowing down either.

“I don’t think so. Everyone attaches so much to age,” Shefflin said. “Bob didn’t have a great game in the Leinster final and people said ‘oh, his age, he’s behind it’, but he was brilliant in the [All-Ireland] semi-final so he’s a great lad again.

“If a younger player has that kind of performance, there’s nothing said about it. He just had a bad day or a good day. Lads are fresh. We’ve been very lucky this year, training has gone very well and we’ve had no major injuries.

“None of the inter-county players have been injured either. In the last few years we had that so in that sense it’s been very positive. Lads are enjoying it. Bob is enjoying it, I’m enjoying it, Aidan is enjoying it, so once there’s a good enjoyment level to it… for the club, that’s very important.”

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If Shefflin decides to walk away after today’s final, he’ll do so with plenty still to contribute, as evidenced by his five-point contribution to Ballyhale’s semi-final win over Gort.

He said: “I’ve been going well and feeling good in the club campaign, to be honest. I didn’t go on the team holiday, we played a few challenge matches and I enjoyed it.

“I got a very good run in training, felt very fit and strong. I knew myself I was in good shape and it didn’t surprise me because I had put those performances in during the challenge matches as well.”

Has he got what it takes to keep going? Few would say no, but Henry is finally about to give us his answer.

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