Henry Shefflin has retired from intercounty hurling. The ten time all Ireland winner announced his decision on Wednesday to retire from the Kilkenny setup to a group of journalists in Langton’s Hotel. It was fitting that he made his announcement in the place where he would often go with his teammates after training.
No other player has won more winning all Ireland medals from play in the history of the GAA and he has 11 all-stars to boot. But what stood out the most at his press conference was that which stood out most in his career; his humility as a person.
Henry Shefflin transcends all sport not only because he is the greatest hurler that has ever lived but also because of his attitude as a sportsperson. He has always been 100% committed to the Kilkenny team above any personal need for adoration.
Henry will continue to play for his club Ballyhale Shamrocks. Following his clubs victory in the All Ireland club championship on St. Patricks Day, Henry said he called down to Brian Cody’s for a cup of tea and a chat about something that had obviously been on his mind:
“We chatted more about hurling than anything else and he said to me that you are welcome back with open arms but it is your decision.”
Humble to the last, King Henry thanked his wife and family and of course, his old mentor, Brian Cody and revealed it was watching the Clare game last week that helped him make his final decision.
‘It’s a selfish decision, it’s a team game… I was just looking at the match and seeing Kevin Kelly and some of the newer players Jonjo Farrell, and I was saying, I remember when I started. I think it’s time for myself. I just felt it was the correct time.”
Surprisingly perhaps to many hurling fans, it was a drawn game in 2012 against Galway that Shefflin cited as his most complete performance as a hurler. It wasn’t a game that he scored very heavily in but he said that something changed in him on the pitch that day and he felt he gave it everything. He also played tribute to fellow Kilkenny stars JJ Delaney and Tommy Walsh saying they were the best he had ever played against.
Tommy Walsh also retired recently having won nine all Irelands and nine all stars, retiring somewhat early at the age of 31. JJ Delaney and Brian Hogan also retired in recent months. Shefflin, Walsh and Delaney have 27 all Ireland winning medals between them.
Is this the end of an era for Killkenny hurling? Brian Cody has had so much success with this group of players. With ten all Ireland victories as a manager, Brian like King Henry would be hailed as a god if he were to bow out of the county setup at this stage.
At the press conference Shefflin was asked if he had any regrets from his time with Kilkenny:
“There were occasions where I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should, where I put too much pressure on myself and all those kind of things but overall, that’s about the whole learning experience of it.
“As I get older I realised that I really did need to experience and embrace the whole occasion and all that goes with being part of this,” he said.
Shefflin will be sorely missed at all levels in the game of hurling. To team mates, rival players and fans everywhere he has been an inspiration and an ambassador for the game. Legend is a word that is used too often in sport but there are few that would argue that it is the only word fitting to describe Henry Shefflin.