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Biting Back: Fashioning a genius like Henry takes time

Published 01/04/2015

Familiar sight: Henry Shefflin enjoyed a phenomenal 16 years with Kilkenny, winning 10 All-Ireland titles and 13 Leinster championships
Familiar sight: Henry Shefflin enjoyed a phenomenal 16 years with Kilkenny, winning 10 All-Ireland titles and 13 Leinster championships

You might think the retirement of Kilkenny hurling legend Henry Shefflin has long disappeared into the news ether, but one aspect of his story should be preserved for evermore.

That is the tale of the boy considered not quite good enough, but who decided not to accept a pre-ordained fate of being the 16th man on teams, a bit too slow, the one who might have done something if he had gotten rid of that bit of baby fat still clinging on.

Shefflin was slightly more chubby than his more accomplished brothers and much less thought of. He eventually sneaked onto the Kilkenny minor team as reserve keeper.

One day he turned up for a game with the county Intermediate team, a long way from the glamour of the senior team and the storied stars of DJ Carey and Charlie Carter. He even brought along a chocolate bar to have as a snack while he sat on the bench, until he got his break.

While his peers at Waterford IT enjoyed college, Shefflin used it as his own personal centre of excellence, shedding the pounds, and soon moved further out the field, to become unquestionably the greatest hurler of modern times.

It also says something for the nurturing of talent, given the right amounts of dedication and coaching. And the question remains, how many talents are discarded just because they didn't fit the mould in their mid-teens?

Belfast Telegraph

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