Typical October tangles, hurling wise? Club torment, club joy.
Think again. Not this week and not now, via a certain development, for quite a while. The inter-county stuff billowed following Galway’s announcement of Henry Shefflin as their new senior manager.
Marty Morrissey, relaying the story on RTÉ’s teatime news, stood between bemused and stunned. No river was available, as backdrop, at such short notice. Matters were moving at the speed of hard weather, surprise swaying to country awe. Who hid the forecast?
Davy Fitzgerald had been the man, according to yesterday. Now he was yesterday’s man.
There is much to unpack about this appointment. First off, the Galway County Board brought off a coup. The relevant people kept this possibility under wraps until the last moment. Tightness and discretion rewarded itself, same as a submarine rewards itself with oxygen.
Bottom line, no pun intended? A structure got tested for leaks.
That pun? Every bit intended.
I imagine this factor proved crucial. Henry Shefflin, a highly intelligent individual, runs slow about trusting people. He would see the manner in which his engagement in this process was curated as indicative of whether he could establish a healthy relationship with a potentially explosive arena.
Weak pun? Not at all.
Pun full on, pun spot on. And just one indicating a strong job done. This Kilkenny man is all about trusting a possibility through the possibility of trust.
Shefflin already knows, therefore, quite a bit. If nothing else, he can covet the advantage of surprise, under the Galway periscope. Blather has been ruled out.
And so a fascinating hurling story embarks. The game’s next few years might well pivot around this decision. The unexpected is what we all love. And what could be more unexpected than Kilkenny’s greatest hurler managing against them?
Easy talk wafts towards whether Joe Canning will invent a new verb and unretire. There fall any amount of Western angles, a plethora of assumptions. But I doubt the Canning stuff will grow legs, because Joe Canning’s legs are shot. Sheflfin has been that soldier, roundabout 2014.
I know the man, a small bit. We are from the same small slice of the world in South Kilkenny, Ballyhale Shamrocks, and I had the privilege of working with our club’s senior panel for several seasons. What you see with Henry, in my experience, is largely what you get.
We are on warm terms, having always got on well. But you do not intrude, do not ask eejity questions. He is always judging (which is why he always had the making of a serious manager). We are used to dealing with brilliant people in the parish of Ballyhale, much as the lakes of Westmeath are used to holding large trout. Hard or soft weather is only a detail. Conditions endure.
Like the rest of us, I greatly admire him and his family, which is. This sentiment is the parish’s default feeling, onfield career and sideline career. Rather unexpectedly, a former star became the club’s manager for the 2018 season. Aided by Tommy Shefflin, his older brother, as trainer, this star oversaw a 17 game unbeaten championship sequence, a feat that snagged two Club Irelands in a row.
Mettle had been tempered. On he went.
Henry Shefflin will travel to Galway with eyes open and homework done. End of day, he is not a pirate, unlike other names that could be mentioned. He is a sailor and, like all sailors, a pragmatist. He will focus on the sky rather than on the horizon, because sky dictates weather. And he never whistles, never relaxes.
Shanties are often sad songs and sad songs, even in severely inland places, forever say so much. Call the county’s present lament ‘The Leaving of Kilkenny’. Ask a question: why is Henry Shefflin leaving his native place when widely believed to be the county’s preferred successor to Brian Cody?
Therein lies a serious tale. The Kilkenny County Board, however inland, must take this sea as a mirror.
This piece of hurling news will end up, ultimately, a tale of two counties.