Shefflin happy where he is and not entertaining disrespectful 'Cody's successor' talk 4 months ago

Shefflin happy where he is and not entertaining disrespectful 'Cody's successor' talk

Everything happened so quickly for Henry Shefflin.

Having just hung up the Ballyhale boots, the plan was to take a little break from hurling before mulling over what he'd do next. It's hard to refuse your own though.

Aware that the club needed something special, it wasn't long before the Ballyhale Shamrocks chairman came calling. Things weren't all that rosy in south Kilkenny but Henry was never going to turn down the club that had given him so much.

 "I knew there had been a little bit of upheaval in the club and a bit of politics going on within it and I felt it might be a chance to go in and steady the ship," he reflects on taking the job on now.

"I rang my brother Tommy who has very good experience. So I knew then I’d plenty of experience around me and that was the reason why I went for it. Look, it was local. Training is at half seven, I jump in the car at ten past seven. I can bring my kids down to the field. So there was a lot of positives to it," he says.

A match made in heaven, but what many will forget is that Ballyhale's year of years didn't start at 100 miles an hour.

They enjoyed a solid opening to their League championship campaign this time in 2018 but it was far from spectacular.

They defeated Érin's Own well in the first round - Shefflin's first game as manager - but losses would follow against O'Loughlin Gaels and against Bennettsbridge in the group stages.

"We’d a lot of young players and my hope was we’d do okay in the championship. It would have been a bonus to win the county final but I was probably thinking this year (2019) would be the year to really get there and drive after it..."

The Shamrocks hadn't thought about county glory, but ever so slowly, confidence within the group began to build. The quarter final victory over Dicksboro was where it all began to click, the semi-final win over Comer was fortunate.

"Look it just happened that things went very well for us as the year went on...I knew there was serious potential in the players," he says.

There was a turning point though, and that was somewhere between the closing stages of the Kilkenny championship and the first round in Leinster.

"It showcased to me the benefit of having county players playing for your club. We don’t see the lads all year and they come back and its the height of championship so you don’t really get time to train. But once we got our of the county championship we’d a couple of weeks to the next game and then we’d a couple of weeks over the Christmas and it was amazing because having TJ, Colin and Joey it brought on the other club players and they got better and that was the benefit of it.

You can only imagine the lift that would give. Ballyhale lifted it all the way to Leinster and All-Ireland club glory.

"But I didn’t expect it, it was a dream year the way it all transpired," he adds.

Shefflin plays down his own role in it, but his ability to manage the players he used to play with was hugely impressive. His ability to settle in so quickly was hugely impressive, and that's why many are talking about him in the breath of an inter-county manager.

He won't entertain the 'heir to Brian Cody's throne talk,' though he does see inter-county management as something he may consider when the time is right.

"Ah no look to be honest I’m very happy where I am and I think, I don’t know what way to phrase it, I think it’s a bit silly for me from my perspective to say something like that . I wanted to go in with Ballyhale to see how it goes and see if I enjoy it and the next question will be do you enjoy it and yes I do enjoy it it was a very enjoyable year with a big learning step so for me that’s it.

"I’ve a young family at home. And look that's the greatest manager of all time in Kilkenny hurling, I think it’s a bit disrespectful for people to even mention even for my liking so. People probably know the answer but they like to say it a little bit … and that’s where I stand on it."

"Down the road, inter-county management probably will (interest me). But I’ve an awful lot to learn. It’s a massive step-up. It’s like going from being a club player to an inter-county player, there’s so much…

"Listening and talking to the lads, the level of detail involved. the commitment levels is just astronomical. That is something you have to take into consideration. Everyone is at different stages in their life cycle. You have to understand where you are..."

But for now, the focus is on the Shamrocks again. A first round loss to rivals Clara brought Ballyhale back down to earth, and though the quick turnaround is something he deems unfair, he's mad for road again.

"I’ve said it to the uachtaráin that I don’t think it’s right, Patrick’s Day, then you’re expecting lads to go with the club again. It’s very, very challenging. For TJ, Colin and these lads, they are well used to it. But I’ve club players who are, “Jeez, we’re after training for 14 months and you’re asking me to go training again and get myself up for a club match?” It’s very difficult.

"For me, it’s learning. We trained three times for that match. Looking back, we should have trained just once, approached it as a once-off game. we talk about enjoyment, the lads weren’t enjoying training. Weren’t looking forward to it. That’s a well spoken topic about the calendar. It is very difficult to manage."

But you get the feeling Shefflin will overcome it no bother. Same as it ever was.

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