Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin paid tribute to the late Eugene Aylward in the aftermath of his side’s win in the All-Ireland club hurling championship today.
The Kilkenny side collected an eighth All-Ireland title but Shefflin revealed that they had not used Aylward’s number 19 jersey as a tribute to their clubmate, who died in a car crash last year.
“Just to win this one was the goal, but to put it back to back to something we've never done before,” said Shefflin.
“So that was something that we didn't speak about until probably close to the match. We didn't want to deal with it because I think it's a great sign of team and you know, as joyous an occasion as today is, it’s also a very sad day as well.
“There's no doubt about it, to do back to back shows serious desire and Eugene's passing gave them that want and desire. We had a photo inside last year of Eoin’s jersey and as you’re probably aware Eugene's jersey, number 19, wasn't seen all year.
“But it’s inside with them in the dressing room and we got a picture with that jersey and the cup - I think that's a great reflection of what the lads wanted to achieve today.”
As for the game itself, Shefflin said they had prepared specifically to counter a sweeper system: “Two weeks ago we faced a similar scenario and we probably didn't handle it very well in the first half and Colin (Fennelly) wasn’t too happy with how Slaughtneil were hitting so much ball.
“In training last Thursday night and last Sunday, we trained for that and I was glad we did, but Darren is a fabulous hurler. I think himself and Daragh Corcoran in the other corner were absolutely magnificent today.
“I felt like we were, we were coming in the first half - the second half of the first half, say, and we just didn't get that goal. I thought if we got the goal we might have kicked on.
“Again, the start of the second half we started well enough, but the one thing I was afraid, and what I was texting everyone who texted me, was that Borris-Ileigh had serious momentum behind them. They started to get that come the end of the second half and then, obviously, TJ just stands up and away we go again.”