He’s the reigning hurler of the year and arguably the most important player in the game, but TJ Reid says comparisons with Henry Shefflin are way off, insisting his clubmate and former Kilkenny colleague will always be “the king”.
Reid’s development has accelerated in the past two seasons and meant that, while Kilkenny lost 10-time All-Ireland medallist Shefflin to retirement last march, they had a near like-for-like replacement in Reid. The 28-year old centre-forward has bulked up in recent seasons and has taken his general play to new levels, with 4-32 scored throughout last year’s championship.
His value to the team is such that Ger Loughnane recently said the back-to-back All-Ireland champions are “totally dependent on TJ Reid, one forward, and maybe Richie Hogan as well”.
In All-Ireland terms, Reid has seven medals, three less than Shefflin, so there’s every chance he could at least emulate that figure, though he baulked at the suggestion of filling Shefflin’s boots.
“I’ll never be Henry Shefflin,” said Reid. “He’s the king of hurling. I’m doing my best for myself. I want to be my best out on the hurling field and I’m just looking to be the best out there. I watched Henry from a young age, because, luckily enough, he’s from Ballyhale.
“I went training with him and he’d bring me training, [and] brought me home then afterwards, so I did learn a lot from him. His work ethic on and off the field is just phenomenal. All those legends that retired from Kilkenny passed down the ingredients to us that you have to be honest, you have to be 100% committed, the spirit has to be 100% each time you go into that dressing-room and hit the field.
“Every time you hit that white line in Nowlan Park it’s got to be heads down, train hard, put your bodies on the line. So they did leave a lot behind for us to kick on from. That’s how I’d view it. It’s a lot easier for us, because we watched those lads do it for so many years.”
Reid is expected to return for Sunday’s Allianz league semi-final with Clare. He was rested for the 24-point quarter-final win over Offaly.
The three-time All Star said that breaking Shefflin’s record for All-Ireland wins and reaching the magical figure of 11 isn’t a particular motivation.
“Look, the All-Irelands are there alright, I have seven of them. I do have a few more years too, hopefully. I’m 28 and I’ll go for as long as my body can take it. Jackie Tyrrell has nine, so he’s going for 10, but that doesn’t come into the dressing room. Certainly, [manager] Brian Cody doesn’t use that as any motivation for an All-Ireland.
“We more motivate ourselves that we love the competition, the big games, getting on a bus and coming to Croke Park. That’s what you dream of as a young lad and that’s why you train your guts out: To get to Croke Park.
“Certainly, All-Irelands and bonuses like the All Stars, hurler of the year, they’re nice, but they’re for the mantlepiece. They’re there for writing down on your CV. In terms of winning that Liam MacCarthy Cup, knowing how much work you put in, knowing how many times you went to the gym, how much you sacrificed, when you lift that cup, nothing beats that feeling. Then you can talk about how many All-Irelands you have.”
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