Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin has announced his retirement from inter-county hurling, aged 36. He will continue to play with his club, Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Long-recognised as one of the finest hurlers in history, Shefflin retires with 10 All-Ireland titles, 13 Leinster SHC titles, six national league titles and 11 All Star awards.
Shefflin was named Hurler of the Year on three occasions.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks player made his inter-county debut with the Cats in 1999 and has been part of Kilkenny’s glittering period since then.
After a string of serious injuries, Shefflin came back to help Brian Cody’s side clinch the Liam MacCarthy Cup again last September.
Shefflin was introduced in the final quarter of last year’s win, providing a lift to Kilkenny as they tried to see off the determined challenge of Tipp.
He won his third All-Ireland club SHC title with Ballyhale Shamrocks on St Patrick’s Day, scoring two points as Ballyhale dispatched Limerick side Kilmallock.
After the game he said he could not put off for any longer a decision about his future.
A product of St Kieran’s school in Kilkenny, which has produced many of the county’s finest hurlers over the years, Shefflin was also a decorated colleges player, who won two Fitzgibbon Cup titles with Waterford IT.
He burst on to the inter-county scene in 1999, and although Kilkenny were pipped by Cork in that year’s All-Ireland final, Shefflin scored five points in a memorable display.
A year later, he was part of the Cats team that thumped Offaly 5-15 to 1-14, scoring 2-02 as Kilkenny dominated. In 2002 he was again top-scorer for Kilkenny with 1-07 when they beat Clare in the final.
In 2003 Shefflin scored six points as Kilkenny beat Cork in the final, as the two counties slugged it out in a rivalry that dominated hurling in the first half of the last decade.
He was Kilkenny’s top-scorer in 2004 with five points when they were soundly beaten by the Rebels.
In 2006 he was part of the Kilkenny side that denied Cork a famous three-in-a-row, scoring eight points as the Cats came out on top. Shefflin’s imperious display that year was rewarded with an All Star, several player of the year awards and the RTÉ Sport Sports Person of the Year
In the years that followed, Shefflin was a towering figure in the Kilkenny side that secured a historic four titles in a row, scoring 1-2 as captain in the 2007 final, eight points in the 2008 final, and 1-08 in the 2009 final.
In 2010 injury hit Shefflin, when he tore his cruciate ligament in that year’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final win over Cork, and looked certain to miss the final.
Shefflin underwent extraordinary treatment with Limerick-based physiotherapist Gerard Hartmann, and made a remarkable recovery, training with Kilkenny within three weeks of the semi-final, despite cruciate injuries usually requiring several months on the sideline.
However, disaster struck on the day of the final when he was forced off in obvious discomfort after just 12 minutes. Tipperary would go on to deny Kilkenny’s ‘Drive for Five’.
Kilkenny and Shefflin returned to All-Ireland glory in 2011, beating Tipperary 2-17 to 1-16 in the final, a new outstanding rivalry in inter-county hurling by now firmly established. Shefflin scored seven points on the day, and secured his tenth 10th All Star that season.
A year later he picked up his 11th All Star, in a season where Kilkenny beat Galway in the All-Ireland SHC final replay. Shefflin scored 12 points in the first final game, and nine points in the replay.
A stress fracture to his foot curtailed Shefflin’s involvement in the 2013 championship. When he missed the game against Offaly, it was the first of the 62 games Kilkenny had by then played under Brian Cody that Shefflin missed.
The injury hampered his involvement in Kilkenny’s 2014 league campaign, and though he return in time for the Championship, he was limited to appearances off the bench, including an appearance in the final.
He said that a substitute role was not ideal but paid tribute to his team-mates.
“It is difficult because everyone wants to be playing," he said at the time.
Source: rte.ie | By Padraic Ryan