You knew it was coming – not often does a GAA player get to call a press conference without announcing something big – and Old King Henry at a ripe age of 36 was only going to say one thing – the King is dead, long live the King.
Shefflin announced that it was with “a deep sense of gratitude and personal contentment” that he was ending his inter-county career “ and with that, the worst kept secret in recent GAA times was out.
Shefflin, interestingly choose Langtons to announce his retirement, a place usually the domain of those only a fraction the age of this afternoon’s attendance, but it’s a sign of how engrained Kilkenny is in the man, one who has no airs or graces, a man who will bring the national media to his local, his terms.
But the most decorated player in GAA history can do as he chooses. Today there were no tears, but it was emotional. Shefflin had seen good friends go before him – Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan and the others, and now he realised it was his turn.
“That was the emotional part of it. That for me was very sad because I wouldn’t be here today without those lads. We have so many good memories of the field of play and I am going to miss them, so that was the only emotional part of it, saying goodbye to the lads.”
Shefflin opened the conference by thanking his family who stood by him, but he singled out one man in particular for special praise – Brian Cody. When Shefflin was trying to break into underage hurling, he was overweight, even played in goals, but Cody and others stuck with him made him the man he is.
“Brian Cody has been part of my senior inter-county career from the beginning and I benefitted greatly from his guidance and support. I thank him and his management teams for the huge role they have played in the success I have enjoyed.”
Watch Henry Shefflin’s full statement below:
When asked what his greatest moment, Shefflin, magnanimous as ever, mentioned that it wasn’t winning one of his 10 All-Ireland’s but instead it was rescuing the draw against Galway in 2012.
“I’ve been very fortunate. Winning your first All-Ireland is special, being captain in 2007 was amazing, but 2012, the first day, though we didn’t win the match, probably for me it was when I played the best I could play at the highest level, when the pressure was on the most.
Although retiring from Senior hurling he’ll continue on with Ballyhale Shamrocks.
“I very much want to continue to enjoy hurling with Ballyhale and I want to, I suppose, give something back to the club, for the time being.
Shefflin didn’t rule out getting involved in management and coaching either in the future but says that he wants to line out for his club for another few years yet.
He said: “I wouldn’t rule anything out. Definitely not. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, I’m looking at managing’. Because it’s a very tough job, as we all know.
“Then, when you get a bit older and you kind of realise then that the children will be a bit older and a bit more independent, than you could see. Because it’s a very time consuming thing.
“I think hurling is going to play a part in my life. I’m very grateful for the opportunity it has given me heretofore. I would hope that there would be more opportunities coming out of it.”
One of his more poignant words will echo around the halls of the GAA pantheon where he will be forever enthroned – “Hurling is and always will be a part of who I am”.