Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher last night labelled Joe Canning’s comments about Henry Shefflin as “very disappointing”.
Canning claimed that when Shefflin ran “30 or 40 yards down the field and giving out to Barry Kelly and Damien Hayes for a free” it was “not sportsmanlike”.
However Keher, a six-time All-Ireland winner, responded to the Galway talisman stating: “It was a very disappointingcomment to make about probably one of the greatest hurlers to ever play the game.
“All the comments coming from Kilkenny after the match were very complimentary towards Galway and towards Joe Canning himself, the way he took that last free.
“I think that’s a very disappointing comment to make about probably one of the greatest hurlers to ever play the game, and a thorough gentleman at that. We’d hate in Kilkenny to have someone of the stature of Joe Canning making a remark like that.”
Eddie further rejected Joe’s claim that Henry influences the referee during games.
“How would Henry influence a referee? Everyone is getting at Kilkenny for the last while, trying to turn everything against us. We know everyone outside Kilkenny would like to see us beaten but all this talk ofinfluencing referees. What way did we influence the referee against Tipperary?
“Fellas from Kilkenny get belted and just get up, get on with the game and that’s the kind of manly behaviour I like to see in hurling. Don’t be lying down looking for the free or for fellas to be carded. It’s very irritating and it happened last Sunday, [Galway] fellas diving a bit when Kilkenny were getting on a roll and the medics coming in, to try to slow the game down. There was a lot of that kind of thing going on.”
In fact, claims Eddie, Kilkenny have themselves been victimised.
“If you look back over the last 10 years, Richie Power, Michael Rice, Brian Hogan, Henry Shefflin, were all cruelly injured in matches, had to go off and were hospitalised and everything. Henry nearly lost his eye, a blow through the face-guard.
“But I can’t think of any incident over the last 12 years of this great team where an opposing player had to leave the field through injury. There has to be a balance. We’re being portrayed as a team that lives on the edge and the media in general seems to be using its influence to get at Kilkenny. There’s all this talk of playing on the edge and dirty teams and hitting fellas, which we’re not.
“The lads play a good manly game, granted. They don’t take a step back, but they play within the rules. They give away frees, of course, it’s difficult not to, but there’s a huge annoyance now in this county over what’s happening.”
It’s not just anti-Kilkenny, it’s a societal problem, reckons Eddie.
“I’m disappointed. I would have thought we have the greatest team and the greatest hurlers of all time but now people are getting at them. Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin — it’s sort of an Irish thing; if someone is very good at what they do, let’s all pull them down.
“Tommy Walsh got a yellow card last Sunday – for what? Kieran Joyce got a yellow card, for what? The Galway sub came in and gave Kieran a dig, he gave a dig back and he gets the card.
“The same for Tommy Walsh, the usual yellow card for Tommy. If I were to tell anyone how hurling should be played I’d say, look at Tommy Walsh, look at Henry Shefflin, look at Joe Canning even. I’m not saying all the great hurlers are on this Kilkenny team, there are fabulous hurlers in every county. But we tend to get stuck into the good fellas. If you want to beat Kilkenny, do it fairly, that’s all I’d say. I don’t see how Henry can influence a referee, certainly he’s not going topersuade him to change his decision.
“But Henry has come back from three serious injuries. He’s the mostapproachable guy, he does a huge amount to promote the game. After matches and after training he’s there signing autographs for ages. He goes and presents medals, never looks for money for anything, in fact he refuses money.
“These are the sort of fellas we should be putting up on a pedestal as greatIrishmen, saying ‘this is the way you should be’, not trying to bring them down.
“That’s such an Irish thing.”
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