home Sports Shefflin uses nine lives to reach historic marker | Padraig Martin

Shefflin uses nine lives to reach historic marker | Padraig Martin

    Appropriately enough, nine days have passed since Kilkenny defeated Galway in the All-Ireland Hurling Final, the crushing defeat of the Tribesmen ensuring that Henry Shefflin picked up his ninth medal.

      Christy Ring and John Doyle both got to eight in their time. Noel Skehan made nine (three as an unused substitute). Noel Hickey also has nine, but did not start in all of the respective finals, leaving Shefflin unparalleled on nine medals.

Image: Setanta

      Yet at times during the winter months a ninth All-Ireland medal seemed a million miles away. Just a few hours after the final whistle had sounded, Shefflin spoke candidly about his struggles with injury.

      “That Monday before we played Dublin in the first round of the Leinster championship, I went down to puck off a wall and I couldn’t puck the ball because my shoulder was at me. To come from that stage to here…”

    So, five days before a game with Dublin that had massive consequences for the 2012 hurling season, Shefflin was struggling with even the most basic movement required to hurl. He also revealed that doubts plagued him during the three weeks between the Dublin game and the Leinster final. And it didn’t stop there.

      “If you’d spoken to me the Monday after the Leinster final, I’d have had serious question marks about myself, let alone Kilkenny. So to reach this now after the summer, I’d have to say this is definitely the sweetest. As well, to win the ninth medal, myself and Noel today, is a special feeling.

      “Last year was a very sweet victory because of the injury more than anything else. There were major concerns would I ever get back there again. I just think this one captures my whole career more than anything else. I would definitely have to say that this one is sweet.”

    One element of Henry Shefflin’s game that stands out is his immense work rate. It is often the case in many sports, that ‘stars’ are nothing more than sunshine players who pop up when the going is good yet are nowhere to be seen when their team needs someone to go into the trenches. Shefflin’s running, hooking, blocking and ability to break ball were every bit as important as his contribution on the score board against Galway. Time and time again he has proven that he is willing to do the donkeywork when necessary. He is a leader and in the build-up to the final he made the conscious decision to embrace talk of a ninth medal, rather than hide from it.

    In the cold light of day he may just be a nine-time national champion on an island of 6.5 million people, in a sport where only a handful of counties have any real prospect of winning the top prize. But as an athlete, sportsman and artist, he is among the most gifted to ever walk the earth. And Brian Cody says he would be “amazed” if Shefflin walked away from the sport at this stage.

    “He hasn’t just played for Kilkenny, he has done everything for Kilkenny, he’s led for Kilkenny, he’s scrapped for Kilkenny and that’s the difference in Henry Shefflin and players who just got out to get on the scoreboard and be the top scorer or whatever it was.

    “Regardless, his work rate is immense. Everybody raved about him the last day and rightly so, he just came out and led from the front when we were under severe pressure.

    “Today again, there he was again, working, working, working. His achievement is unique because nobody has ever done it before and that tells its own story.”