BY NIALL SHERRY
Shefflin named Galway’s Top Cat
After weeks of speculation surrounding the vacant Galway managers job, the announcement was made late Wednesday evening that hurling’s most decorated player, Henry Shefflin had been appointed to the role.
The legendary figure had been mooted as one of the possible candidates for the position, but many had expected Clare native Davy Fitzgerald to succeed Shane O’Neill as the tribesmen’s boss. Fellow Kilkenny man Richie O’Neill will join his coaching team.
Judging by the reaction on social media, many westerners are both relieved and excited that it’s The Ballyhale man and not the larger-than-life Davy Fitzgerald.
The statement issued to media by the Galway County Board on Wednesday evening read:
“Galway GAA is delighted to announce Henry Shefflin as the new Galway Senior Hurling Manager. Henry’s achievements as a player are unrivalled. As a manager he has guided Ballyhale Shamrocks to All Ireland Club titles in 2019 and 2020. Henry will be joined by fellow Kilkenny man Richie O’Neill as a coach and his management team will be finalised in the coming weeks. All in Galway GAA wish them the very best in their new roles”.
“Galway GAA also wish to thank everyone that participated in, and facilitated the selection process, including the candidates that put themselves forward as well as the interview panel for their diligence, commitment, and professionalism over the past few weeks”.
“The appointment of Henry Shefflin to lead our flagship team underpins both our immediate ambition for Galway hurling as well as a commitment to building a sustainable development pathway for our young hurlers. This will be followed by the appointment of our U-20 and Minor Management teams, as well as the Head of our newly constituted Adult Development Squad for 2022”.
Henry stated, ‘Managing the Galway Senior Hurlers presents a unique opportunity, and we relish the exciting challenge ahead as we begin this journey. We look forward to working with the players, the county board, and the wider Galway GAA community over the coming years’
To some pundits and fans, it will be a somewhat surprise appointment, given the fact that the legendary forward’s only management experience has been at club level to date. That started with a 2-year spell in charge of his native Ballyhale Shamrocks, and more recently as manager of intermediate side Thomastown.
It’s clear that Shefflin’s exploits with Ballyhale have not gone unnoticed, as Wednesday’s announcement suggests. When his two-year term was up with Shamrocks, ‘King Henry’ made it known that he wouldn’t manage against his native club.
Viewed by many as one of the greatest hurlers of all time, Shefflin enjoyed unparalleled success with Kilkenny spanning a 16-year period. During those golden days with the county, he won TEN All-Ireland’s, three hurler of the year awards and ELEVEN All-Stars.
Equally at club level, Henry was part of a silver-winning Ballyhale machine, as both player and then more recently as manager. The classy forward won three All-Ireland club titles on the field and backed that up with two further titles as manager.
Shefflin’s appointment will be a huge boost to Galway hurling, given how their fortunes have declined since they lifted the Liam McCarthy cup back in 2017. Since that title win, the Tribesmen have failed to win a Leinster title, or reach an All-Ireland decider.
Under Shefflin’s predecessor, Galway were beaten by Waterford in the qualifier’s, a defeat that signaled the end of the great Joe Canning’s inter-county career. Ironically, it would be Canning that would take over as the leading scorer in championship hurling, from Henry, just this year.
There’s no doubt about the size of task that lies ahead in the west for Shefflin. This Galway panel are not getting any younger and the retirement of Canning is a huge loss. This might be one of the reasons for this appointment. Galway have been highly successful at minor level in recent years, and you would expect Shefflin will be blooding many of these players in the months ahead. Could Joe Canning possibly be tempted to return, given the stature of the new man at the top?
There’s work to be done out west, but by the time Kilkenny visit Pearse Stadium for a Leinster Championship clash next summer, Henry might just have team up for the challenge.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
The appointment of Henry Shefflin as Galway boss, could prove to be a fantastic move.
Firstly, fantastic for Galway – they are getting one of the game’s greatest exponents who is a born winner, both as a player and in more recent years as a manager.
It is clear that Shefflin is a student of the game. He was classy as a player and has proved to be astute on the sideline.
Let’s not forget that when appointed manager of his beloved Ballyhale, Henry oversaw a 17-game unbeaten championship run which culminated in two All-Ireland titles.
Secondly, fantastic for Kilkenny – one of their ‘sons’ is going to gain invaluable inter-county management experience at the highest level. This will provide Henry with the perfect audition for an even bigger job down the line.
Perhaps one much closer to home. Kilkenny is home, and I’m sure we will welcome ‘King Henry’ back some day to take charge of a county team using the home changing room at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Good Luck Henry. We’ll meet again.