Michael Fennelly says the news Kilkenny colleague Henry Shefflin will challenge for a perfect 10 All-Ireland winners’ medals is a massive boost.
Shefflin, who turns 34 in January, has yet to publicly confirm his intentions for 2014, but took part in recent pre-season squad tests. Club and county colleague Fennelly said the tests included standard heart screening and individual assessments.
“He did a bit of testing there at the weekend so I think he is going ahead next year,” said Fennelly.
“I don’t know, I’d say he’s 90% sure at this stage but I’d say, yeah, he is hopefully coming back because he would be a big asset, a big boost.
“His presence alone just to have in the dressing-room is huge, so fingers cross his injuries clear up and everything so he can be fresh and hit the ground running next year.”
Shefflin endured a torrid 2013 season as he sought to return from long-term injury.
He missed their Allianz League campaign but famously made it back for the Championship, featuring in their win over Tipperary, only to suffer a rare red card in the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Cork.
His intention to return means he won’t bow out on a red card.
“Exactly, it was a bad year for Kilkenny and a bad year for Henry, injury wise,” continued Fennelly. “He didn’t get much game time. How many minutes of play did he get? He might have got 40 minutes the whole year. It would have been a horrible way to go.
“It would have been different if he was past it or finished, but he’s still in good nick. A bit of training now and at that age if you can stay injury-free it is a huge thing.”
Ex-All-Ireland winning captain Fennelly admitted he’s banking on an improvement in his own personal fortunes.
He suffered an ankle injury in a club game last April, limiting his involvement in the Championship.
In recent weeks, he was forced to wear a protective boot in his bid to finally overcome the problem and only discarded it earlier this week.
“I went back club hurling, thought I would be fine training away,” revealed the powerful midfielder. “I knew myself it wasn’t fully right but thought it would just take time to heal. But then I noticed I couldn’t get up to maximum speed and even as training went on my foot was getting fatigued and sorer.
“I went for a scan and there were more problems going on there again. I don’t think the ligament was working and there was a lot of bone bruising and few a more problems. Hopefully it’s on the mend.”
As part of his third level studies, Fennelly will jet out to Australia on Tuesday to partake in work experience with Aussie Rules side the Sydney Swans.
“It’s for two months, just to get a bit of experience and see what those boys do,” said Fennelly, who is completing a Masters in Sports Performance at the University of Limerick.
“I’m concentrating on the area of strength and conditioning and a bit of coaching. Hopefully next year I can pick up a job as well.”
He may miss an early Allianz League game because of the Australia trip but will be back for the majority of their Division 1A campaign and is confident that, like Shefflin, the rest of their veteran players will return too.
“From what I gather, everyone is coming back,” he said. “Some lads are in their early 30s but I would feel that’s quite young. I don’t think they are gone past it yet.”
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