Henry Shefflin was a different player to what TJ Reid is for the Cats, says Peter McNamara.
TJ Reid scored another 0-11 including five from open play as Ballyhale Shamrocks defeated Erin’s Own, Castlecomer in the Kilkenny SHL last weekend.
As Henry Shefflin began what could potentially be an illustrious managerial career with his club side, Reid contributed those 11 points to a team tally of 1-24.
In our lifetimes, I would suggest Shefflin is the greatest player seen in the land.
His levels of consistency were remarkable and his ability to conjure memorable moments of skill were unrivalled for so long.
Yet, Reid’s worth to Kilkenny seems to be now on a par with that of Shefflin’s during his days at the top of the game.
And there is hardly a greater compliment you could pay Reid than to say that about what he brings to Brian Cody’s party.
Eoin Larkin said last week that Reid is performing “at a higher level” than Shefflin was while the now retired man was displaying his optimum standard.
Obviously, you have to take note when as decorated an ex-player as Larkin is says something as strong as that.
Yet, given Shefflin was playing with a better unit, it is difficult to gauge if Larkin is right or not. After all, you would be slow to take anything at all away from how great an impact Shefflin had on Kilkenny. Not that, in fairness, Larkin meant it in that sense.
Of the men in question, Reid and Shefflin that is, the latter was arguably the craftier of the two players. Marginally.
Yet, Reid’s work-ethic would compensate for being slightly shy of Shefflin in the technical department.
Essentially, Shefflin was a different player to what Reid is for the Cats.
Shefflin, more often than not, would operate higher up the pitch than Reid does as the latter roams the field more.
This, though, is most likely because Shefflin could afford to remain in more offensive positions knowing the calibre of teammates he had working so diligently behind him.
Shefflin’s Kilkenny was an extremely special brand of being, after all.
That is not to detract from the excellence of the players around Reid now.
However, I can safely assume people would agree that Shefflin soldiered with a more accomplished outfit. The amount of titles they won would tell you as much.
Therefore, even though Cody is assembling another side that could land further honours in the months and years ahead based on their progression throughout the Allianz NHL campaign, it would be foolish to not accept they are still over-reliant on Reid to guide the ship.
Now, it could easily be that Reid is actually a superior overall player to Shefflin in terms of all-round contributions to match-day situations.
However, we would sincerely prefer to believe Shefflin managed to stand-out in a team for the ages rather than be of the opinion Reid is a better player than the former, making those around him presently appear a shadow of his worth.
And yet, were Reid to be unfortunately injured at some point, the knock-on effect for Cody’s evolution would be two-fold.
Firstly, the obvious point: No Reid means less victories.
And secondly, less victories means less opportunities for the newbies to develop their games to the level required.
So even though people were mad to write Kilkenny off earlier in the season, people’s opinions should not now go too far in the other direction whereby they are all of a sudden expected to repeat the feats of their predecessors, including the likes of Shefflin.
The reality is they do not possess the depth of quality to justify lofty expectations.
Kilkenny are still a work in progress. And they will be for some time.
They were never gone away, but they are not at the point where people should start factoring them into calculations as truly likely All-Ireland candidates.
Have they a chance? Yes, of course they do. But an outside chance for now. Galway and Tipp, both at full strength, would still be viewed as favourites to overcome them in the championship.
That is not to say Kilkenny could not take either or both of those teams out of the championship. But this Kilkenny are still learning and need to begin to rely less on Reid to be considered one of the favourites for summer success again.
This is so because as soon as they rely less on Reid, it means the others around him, those younger individuals, have truly found their feet at the senior inter-county grade.
The Radio Kerry interview on Terrace Talk with Éamonn Fitzmaurice was fascinating on Monday night.
There were lots of debating points from the comments of Fitzmaurice who is, frankly, one of the most engaging characters in management.
One point, though, that went under a radar was that one whereby he suggested age does not matter in the pursuit of trophies these days.
“Age doesn’t count in our set-up. From David Clifford right up to Kieran Donaghy, it’ll come down to form during the summer. The lads that are back on the experienced side, they are not just there from the point of view of experience. They are there because they can play and because they can bring something,” he said.
You can understand why Fitzmaurice had to say that. Yet, I would be surprised is Kerry’s championship side is not packed with younger legs in the summer.
The more experienced guys will surely be held in reserve for the most part as they try to bridge the gap to Dublin in the coming season or two.