'Jesus, do you know what, I could get my chance here' - Injuries all round, but Shefflin and Kilkenny's are still excited 4 months ago

'Jesus, do you know what, I could get my chance here' - Injuries all round, but Shefflin and Kilkenny's are still excited

No inter-county manager supports the club game as much as Brian Cody, but he surely can't wait for this club month to end.

For Cody and Kilkenny, it's been the stuff of nightmares.

First of all, it was James Maher. April wasn't even a full week old when news filtered back from Freshford club training that the midfielder had broken a bone in his leg.

That was only the start of it.

Soon after, Cillian Buckley's chances of featuring this summer were deemed slim after the centre back had gone under the knife in a bid to solve a persistent knee problem.

But the blows kept on coming. Richie Hogan limped out of Danesfort's first club game against Érin's Own with that troublesome back of his rearing up again. Then Érin's Own got a dose of it themselves when Conor Delaney - the budding full back - broke his leg in a training injury.

And now there's Eoin Murphy. The Glenmore goalkeeper has been Kilkenny's most consistent, and arguably most important player over the last few years and that's why the news of a 'jarred' knee during a club championship game against Freshford last weekend hits so hard.

Not only is Murphy a shot-stopper, a point scorer and a platform for attack but most of all, he's a leader in this squad too. Speaking at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, Henry Shefflin reflects on how damaging Murphy's potential absence could be for Kilkenny, and the challenge facing Brian Cody with a Leinster championship only around the corner.

“For us, you think of the goalkeeping, you think of the shot-stopping but then when you think about it, you put your manager’s hat on so you’re preparing a team, you’re preparing puckouts, which have become so important now and if Eoin is injured and he’s not training you can’t implement those if he’s not going to come back into the team.

"So it’s all these small things that we don’t understand from the outside in so that will be massive. Obviously, look, his shot-stopping and everything he brings, his point-scoring, so it’s going to be a big one. It’ll be interesting to hear how that turns out. I heard he just jarred his knee so I don’t know what the outcome of it is yet," said Henry.

Fingers are crossed all over Kilkenny.

Captain Buckley's absence would be just as impactful.

“Massive loss, massive leader as well. He’s so athletic.

“You know, the game now has evolved that you need that athleticism with the hurling brains beside you so, that’s something that Kilkenny do require as well. In that sense he’s a massive loss. Hopefully he will get back. Again it’s the great unknown, nobody knows," adds Henry.

But amidst all the gloom, Henry knows that there's no better man than Brian Cody to deal with these blows and that this 'great unknown' could even be a good thing.

"You talk about Limerick and I think they have that very strong down the middle and I think that’s the challenge for Kilkenny, who is going to play there.

“With Conor Delaney looking like he was going to play one of those positions, being injured, no-one really knows, which is a challenge, they are not settled at all there but I think it’s a little bit exciting as well because no-one knows what this Kilkenny team is going to come with, or even who is going to be playing," he adds.

But whoever lines out in the black and amber, there's no doubt about it that Cody will have them rearing for it.

“He has had his club players going out and playing high intensity matches where lads are getting injured last weekend. He now has four or five sessions to plan for a campaign that is going to run off in five or six weeks, but I think he loves that challenge, and that’s why he does it.

“He has plenty of energy about him and he just loves doing what he is doing. I don’t think there is any secret to it. I think he is a very competitive man. He wants to get the best for himself and his players, and that’s what keeps him going.”

A genuine grá for Kilkenny hurling. That's what keeps Brian Cody going.

"I think it shows the respect he has for the club that never once did he look for the club players during our campaign."

It's what keeps the players going too.

“I was talking to Richie Reid over the weekend. These type of lads, who probably felt they hadn’t an opportunity, are probably saying, ‘Jesus, do you know what, I could get my chance here.’ It’s good for those lads as well.”

Time will tell an interesting story, but if history has taught us anything, it's to never ever write off the Cats.

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin during a coaching session at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge 2019 at Croke Park in Dublin