Henry Shefflin has described talk of him inevitably succeeding Kilkenny manager Brian Cody as ‘disrespectful’ and claimed it would be ‘silly’ for him to contribute to the discussion.
Shefflin was speaking after the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, having listened to current Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy back him for the Kilkenny job at some stage.
Shefflin, 40, the most successful hurler ever with 10 All-Ireland wins, has enjoyed immediate success as a manager by leading home club Ballyhale Shamrocks to the AIB All-Ireland title at his first attempt.
The win prompted talk that it’s only a matter of time before Shefflin steps up to manage the Cats though the man himself said he won’t be making any such predictions.
“Look, to be honest, I’m very happy where I am and I think it’s....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,” said Shefflin.
“I wanted to go in with Ballyhale to see how it goes, to see if I enjoy it and the next question you ask will be ‘Do you enjoy it?’ and yes, I do enjoy it. It was a very enjoyable year, a big learning step and for me that’s it.
Shefflin retired from county duty in March of 2015 and last played for Ballyhale in late 2017 before agreeing to manage them months later.
He says the only management offer he ever received came from Ballyhale and that he accepted because the team was struggling.
But the TV pundit conceded that inter-county management does interest him.
“Down the road, it probably will,” he said. “But I’ve an awful lot to learn. It’s a massive step-up. It’s like going from being a club player to being an inter-county player. The level of detail involved, the commitment levels, it’s 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.”
Shefflin had indicated after retiring from Kilkenny duty four years ago that he wasn’t interested in management.
He admitted yesterday that he initially tried to put hurling on the back-burner, to focus mainly on his day job, but found it impossible.
“I tried that for a little while and I realised, do you know what, hurling is such a part of my life and always will be such a part of my life,” he said. “So I kind of pulled back a little on that and realised it’s something I love to do.”
The 11-time All-Star said he’s ‘excited’ about this year’s championship with so many question marks over Cody’s Kilkenny.
He reckons they need players to fill the problem positions of full-back and centre-back in particular.
“They are not settled at all there, and I think that’s the challenge,” said The Sunday Game TV pundit. “At three and six, we talked about it over the years, the spine, and we keep talking about it on The Sunday Game. You talk about Limerick and I think they have that very strong spine down the middle and I think that’s the challenge for Kilkenny, who is going to play there?
“With Conor Delaney, who looked like he was going to play one of those positions, now injured, no-one really knows, which is a challenge. But I think it’s a little bit exciting as well because no-one knows what this Kilkenny team is going to come with, or even who is going to be playing.”
Shefflin conceded that there’s no guarantees Kilkenny will finish in the top three in Leinster to secure a knock-out place.
Asked if he’s concerned that Kilkenny could be squeezed out by Galway, Dublin and Wexford, Shefflin nodded.
“I actually think the Leinster championship is going to go right down to the end this year. Dublin are coming down fancying themselves against Kilkenny. Kilkenny then, a couple of weeks later, have Galway in Nowlan Park. I think Kilkenny will be fancying themselves with Joe (Canning injured) and Galway not going as well as they were in previous years.
“I think it’ll come down to the last match of the league. Kilkenny are going to Wexford and I think it’ll be wide open until then. I think there will be a bit of that, like what went on in the Munster championship last year, in Leinster this year.”
Meanwhile, Shefflin, who came up just short of the five-in-a-row with Kilkenny in 2010, warned Dublin that the pressure will ratchet up if they come close to winning it in football this year.
“Once it gets to the end, when we get to August or the end of July with the football, that’s when the real heat will come on and that’s when it does come into your mind,” he said.