HENRY SHEFFLIN HAS long been tipped as a potential successor to Brian Cody once the legendary figure steps aside as Kilkenny boss.
After leading Ballyhale Shamrocks to back-to-back All-Ireland club titles, Shefflin has taken charge of Kilkenny intermediate side Thomastown for 2021. It did little to quieten the talk that he’s waiting in the wings to replace his former manager.
Shefflin, along with former Laois boss Eddie Brennan, are among the former Cats who would be frontrunners if a vacancy did open up.
But, for the moment, Shefflin says he has no interest in getting involved in inter-county management.
“At this moment in time, no. At the time I wasn’t even sure I wanted to get involved with Ballyhale.
“I just felt we needed something different than someone to stand in there and obviously I became involved. Little did I think that we’d go on the run we did for two years and I really needed a break then to spend time with my family.
“Obviously I’ve spent a lot of time with my family over the past year – [my wife] Deirdre’s nearly sending me back out the door again – and I’ve really embraced that. It was something different for me. That was one of the major benefits for me of Covid. We got to spend quality time with our family and then ones we love most.
”Now I’m getting involved with Thomastown, a local club and it’s really broadened my experience. I knew the dressing room and knew the lads in Ballyhale. In one sense that can be difficult but there were a lot of positives for me.
“I’m going into an entirely different environment in Thomastown where I don’t know many of the players or many of the people around the club etc. I don’t know the culture in there so it’s a learning experience.
“In tandem with that, my family life has become more independent in the sense that the children are getting that bit older. So that’s the journey I’m on and where it takes me, I’m just not quite sure.”
The manner of Kilkenny’s second-half collapse against Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final, plus reports of a “joyless” set-up set tongues wagging over Cody’s future.
Shefflin praised the longest serving inter-county manager for remaining in charge through the pandemic which has put the GAA season on ice.
“I think it’s more a testament of the character of Brian that that kind of conversation has happened and yet in the midst of a pandemic where it must be very, very difficult for inter-county managers and inter-county teams that Brian hasn’t said, ‘Look, I’ve done so much, I can’t do any more.’
“I think it’s a testament to the character of the man that he hasn’t done that. And he’s said, Kilkenny.
“[If] a manager steps away in this current climate, it’s going to leave it in a very vulnerable position for a new manager coming in and I think Brian would never do that because everything he does is always about Kilkenny hurling.
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Henry Shefflin was speaking at the launch of the new Gaelic Games Player Pathway.
Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
“So I’m he’s still there and when we think back, obviously there was major disappointment after the Waterford match but we were still, what was it, eight or nine points up just before half-time in an All-Ireland semi-final. If we’d have managed that second half a bit better we’d have been in an All-Ireland final.
“We were in the All-Ireland final the previous year so they’ve been very, very close to it so I think on those two fronts I’m delighted that Brian is still staying and hopefully that bit of improvement will come on.
“I think some of the younger players definitely improved last year and obviously Adrian Mullen will be coming back into the mix, coming back from his cruciate as well.
“For those couple of things I’m delighted and, as I said, I think it’s a testament to the character of the man that he has stayed there and is going to keep Kilkenny going in another pandemic year.”