A new era will dawn this Saturday in Páirc Sheamuis Stiopháin when Ballyhale Shamrocks play their first game — a Senior Hurling League fixture away to Erin’s Own — under the management of Henry Shefflin.
One of those players in his care this season, when not shooting out the lights with Kilkenny, will be TJ Reid who, according to Eoin Larkin earlier this week, is operating at a level above anything his club’s latest bainisteoir managed in his prime.
High praise, indeed.
“Yeah, em, it’s great to be there up there with Henry,” said Reid. “He was my idol that I tried to mimic as much as I could. Look, I’m not Henry Shefflin, I’m my own player. I’m very different to Henry. I’m just performing and leading my team as best as I can.
“There’s no pressure, I’m just going out enjoying my game and doing what I do best and that’s hurling. That’s about winning ball, winning dirty ball. That’s what I’m about.
“It’s obviously nice to hear those things and know you’re doing something right.”
People forget Reid was one of only two Kilkenny hurlers to earn an All-Star nomination in 2017 despite the county’s problems and yet the extra spring in his step this last few months has been undeniable. And he could have easily walked away.
“I’m 30 now and I’ve had great years with Kilkenny. Winning is what it’s all about. When you lose, for Kilkenny we don’t like it. I could have easily said: ‘We’re gone now, I’m 30 years of age, I’ll concentrate on my business’ but I didn’t. I want to get back to winning ways.”
Nobody was more important in making that happen this past few months.
Reid registered a ridiculous 1-81 in the side’s successful league campaign and, though he doesn’t credit his current work circumstances with all the credit, there is little doubt but that a change of pace and direction has helped him.
The three-time All-Star found himself working two jobs last year. That changed in October when he stepped away from a sales rep role with Connolly’s Red Mills to concentrate on the eponymous gym he had set up in Kilkenny City.
A “massive relief,” he said. It was easy to see why when he detailed a regime of 5.30am alarm calls, gym openings an hour later, a stint on the road with the day job before returning to the gym. And all that before reporting for training.
“I was mentally tired. That’s all gone now. Playing sport, it’s all about having a routine. Last year I was going from here to there with the two jobs. This year I’m just in the gym and hurling so it’s a lot easier. You’re in a routine now and energy levels are a lot higher.”
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