Patient Shefflin not setting any targets

HENRY SHEFFLIN is more than happy to play the long game right now.

Eight months on since aggravating a tear in the cruciate ligament of his left knee, and a week after his return to action with Ballyhale, the eight-time All Star is still refusing to set a target for his competitive return with Kilkenny.

The Leinster side’s championship opener against either Laois, Antrim or Wexford is still five weeks away but Shefflin believes it will be much deeper into the summer, or more, before he is back to his optimum self regardless of when he clocks back in.

He should know. After all, he injured the cruciate ligament in his other knee four years ago and is of the opinion that his recovery is still only hovering around the 75-80% mark despite the sometimes torturous rehabilitation he underwent with Ger Hartmann in Limerick.

“It took me a bit of time (in 2007),” he said yesterday at the Centra championship launch, “the middle of the summer definitely. A couple of matches in Leinster I probably struggled a bit.

“I did all right, but I probably wasn’t happy and it was later on in the summer that I felt good.

“It was probably the following year that I felt really good. Look, two injuries are never the same but it definitely does take you a bit of time to get back up to the speed of it. Your knee is after going through surgery.”

Any lingering urge he may have felt to rush back into the county jersey was chased from his mind when a teenager in the same parish broke down recently after a similar injury and just a month after returning to the game.

The next staging post may well be Ballyhale’s meeting with Fenians of Johnstown in three weekends time and the hope is that, like four years ago, there will be no niggling little injuries to complicate or prolong the process.

Whatever the summer holds for him, he harbours no regrets about lining out last September just three weeks after first doing the damage against Cork. The focus now is to do his bit in bringing the Cats back to the boil.

Shefflin looked on from the sidelines earlier this month as Dublin did to Kilkenny what Kilkenny had so often done unto others in the league final but declarations of their demise aren’t being entertained in Brian Cody’s camp.

“It is one bad day. People maybe jumped on the bandwagon a small bit. Kilkenny didn’t perform but I don’t think that should come into it. It should be more about how Dublin performed, because they were absolutely flying it.

“Kilkenny will go out and play most days, but if you are not let play well it is because of the opposition. In fairness to Dublin, they hurled brilliantly. Our lads would have been disappointed with the performance but the championship is coming and hopefully we can turn that around.”

There is enough talent and experience in that dressing-room to back up Shefflin’s rallying cry and no-one possesses more of both qualities than the man himself, the longest-serving member of the current panel having made his debut back in 1999.

Yet, when he does return to training in Nowlan Park, he will notice the void left by Martin Comerford, who announced his retirement from the inter-county game earlier this week after his own glittering, nine-year career.

“Ah yeah, he’ll be a major loss for us. He’s been a great hurler. He came onto the panel in 2001 and he’s been a great character as well. We’ll miss him in that side of the dressing room because he was a great old character, a great hurler.

“I remember the goal I got in the (2002) final. He blocked Brian Lohan over in the corner and he brought that level to it. He gave it his heart and soul. He’ll be a major loss. He’s won a lot of matches for us and dug us out of a lot of holes.”

Picture: CENTRA OF ATTENTION: Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin at the launch of Centra’s Hurling Skills Tour, which will run from June 4-9 in Tipperary, Offaly, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin and Galway. Picture: Brian Lawless/Sportsfile

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