Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody isn’t surprised that his former player Henry Shefflin has steered Ballyhale Shamrocks to the brink of another All-Ireland club final, paying tribute to Shefflin’s “supreme hurling brain”.
Ballyhale face off against Ballygunner of Waterford in tonight’s All-Ireland club senior hurling semi-final in Thurles, and Cody laughed yesterday when asked if Shefflin had sought advice from him.
“I was going to check with him for some advice,” said Cody.
“He doesn’t need advice. His hurling brain was supreme, he never had to look to the sideline to be told to do this or that, if he saw something that needed to be done, he’d do it.
“He was a leader on the field for us, a leader in every single way.
“He wasn’t necessarily a player who’d be shouting and roaring in the dressing-room, but he spoke with authority and spoke with sense as well. He understood exactly the qualities which were needed.
“Of course he knew the importance of the work and the selflessness required - he epitomised that. The respect he would immediately garner in any dressing-room, his knowledge of the game, and his personality - which is crucial to the whole thing.
“He has a huge amount to offer. He’s on a good run and we’ll see how they go today.”
Shefflin isn’t the only former Kilkenny legend who’s out this weekend. Noel Hickey, aged 38, lines out for Dunnamaggin against Castleblayney of Monaghan in tomorrow’s All-Ireland junior club hurling final.
“Brilliant, and that’s no surprise,” said Cody of his former full-back.
“Noel wasn’t heard of much in the media when he was playing and he still isn’t being heard too much since he retired from inter-county.
“He’s just the ultimate GAA man, the ultimate clubman. He was everything - was he a leader for us, he was outstanding.
“For him and his family, they’re completely central to everything that happens in Dunamaggin and it’s wonderful to see him getting to Croke Park again. It’s something he’ll be very proud of and more importantly, he’ll see it as being fantastic for the club.
“That’s the kind of person he is and always has been.”
The Kilkenny manager was speaking at the announcement of a new three-year sponsorship deal with Glanbia, their long-time sponsor.
Regarding his current squad, Cody was downbeat about Cillian Buckley’s availability but had better news of key players Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan.
“Cillian (Buckley) is out at the moment, I can’t put a timeframe on that. Walter (Walsh) is pretty much ready to come back, Pádraig (Walsh) got a bit of time last week.
“Richie (Hogan) has a nice bit done but just a small bit is needed.
“Bill Sheehan had surgery on his wrist so he’ll be out for another couple of months.
“Obviously we have lads concentrating on the club at the moment as well as the Fitzgibbon - it’s just that time of the year. The new format has changed things because you’re going Sunday-Sunday-Sunday-Sunday in the league, then the club month kicks in and you’re back to the championship, Sunday-Sunday-Sunday-Sunday again.
“So there’s a different demand, and even if a player gets a slight injury now it’s hard. Before if a player even had a hamstring there was a bit of time, a chance to get them back in a few weeks - but now a few weeks could mean missing three or four matches.”