They finally found a national treasure in Spain yesterday, the long-hidden resting place of the poet Cervantes. Contrast with Croke Park yesterday, where a national treasure was on open display.
Henry Shefflin has had busier days in Jones’s Road, but yesterday’s All-Ireland Club final victory over Kilmallock wasn’t one of them.
Any time a game is won by 12 points it proves Cervantes’ observation there are occasions which may please one’s sight without captivating the affections.
Hence the post-game focus on whether Shefflin would be testing himself again in the venue — wearing Kilkenny’s black and amber rather than the white of Ballyhale.
“It’s the perfect platform,” he said.
“To win an All-Ireland, a third with your club, but then you’re saying to yourself it’s the end of March so the season is nearly over — it’s really rocking on. It’s a decision I need to be in the full of my health . . . There’s no club championship to worry about, though it’s starting up in Kilkenny in a couple of weeks time, which is crazy.
“I suppose the decision I have to make is whether or not I am going to go back with Kilkenny. And it’s a decision I am going to make very quickly.”
And does he know what that decision will be? “No, I don’t. To be fair, I’ve been very balanced. There are occasions when one of the lads goes and you say to yourself ‘will I go?’. Then you watch a match and you say ‘will I stay?’. So it tos and fros a bit like that. I was very much balanced on that — I said I was going to see how I was, see how my body was and I’m very comfortable in that decision. People ask was today a factor, but it wasn’t. I would love to have been going out and scoring five points, but it wasn’t about me — it was about Ballyhale winning. It wasn’t about one 60 minutes, it was about the overall picture.”
Cervantes would have applauded (“Diligence is the mother of good fortune,” the Spaniard once said, “Idleness, its opposite, never brought a man to the goal of any of his best wishes.)
However, we pressed Shefflin for a date. He offered a timeframe in return.
“Look, we’ll be all glad when it’s all over and the decision is made. I’m fed up with ye asking and ye are probably fed up with me putting it off and at least we have come to a final and this is it now. I’m going to enjoy the celebrations for a day or two and then this weekend I am going to reflect on it and make my decision then within the next week. That’s the way I have to make it and we can’t put it off any longer.
“I’ve been in the privileged position to be able to keep pushing it off because we did so well with the club. I’m very happy with where I am at, so it’s just make my mind up time.”
Characteristically, Shefflin then deflected the spotlight onto his teammates, and new Kilkenny captain Joey Holden in particular.
“We’ve a good panel to pick from as well so a lot of players there were pushing the other lads on. In other years we didn’t have that but the panel was very strong.
“Joey is a very good chap. I’ve great time for him. I think he’ll make a great captain. It’s not about talking, it’s about performing and what you do on the field and you can see that with Joey, in training he applies himself very well. Then he gets a performance like that today.”
Holden wasn’t alone in excelling, and as his teammate pointed out, yesterday’s performance wasn’t an accident.
“It’s not today,” said Shefflin. “It started last April or May and goes from there. There are a lot of hurdles in your way and we’ve tripped over some of them but some of the others we got over very cleanly.
“I think today was one of those we got over very cleanly.”
Kilmallock can testify to that. As that Spaniard was saying four centuries ago, those who play with cats must expect to be scratched.
All-Ireland Club final coverage P20-21
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