All Ireland Hurling Championship: Henry Shefflin gets green light for Kilkenny
Kilkenny's Henry Shefflin has shown no ill-effects from his very public return to training at Nowlan Park on Wednesday night following intensive treatment on a cruciate ligament tear he suffered 17 days earlier.
The greatest hurler of his generation is now well on course to take his place in the team for Sunday week's All-Ireland final, once he comes through another training session on Saturday.
His recovery has won praise from the medical world, but eminent orthopaedic surgeons were still cautioning yesterday of the risk he faces from playing so soon after sustaining the injury.
"Any athlete still runs the risk of breakdown in a match," Mr Denis Collins, a consultant surgeon at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, said last night. "There is the prospect of the knee buckling if the athlete turns too quickly, with cartilage or other damage occurring."
Mr Collins said it was very possible that someone like Shefflin could play so soon after sustaining the injury and explained that "stability" of any damaged cruciate ligament depended on how quickly swelling can be reduced, the extent of the damage and strength of the quad muscles and hamstrings.
"It is possible to strengthen these muscles sufficiently so that there is sufficient resistance to twist," he said. "Normally swelling would take four weeks to settle down before an assessment could be made, but in this case it was obviously worked on straight away."
Shefflin started his treatment almost immediately after coming off against Cork. He was in the cryotherapy unit in Wexford within hours and this would have helped to reduce swelling.
Over the years the strength in his legs has developed impressively and with no apparent damage to any other part of the knee sustained against Cork, recovery has been more straight-forward.
"If there isn't any damage done to the cartilage or to any of the other ligaments in the knee, it makes it a lot easier," said Mr Collins.
He has been working intensely with John Tennyson, under the supervision of renowned physical therapist Ger Hartman at his Limerick clinic.
Kilkenny selector Martin Fogarty said only 10 days ago that Shefflin "hadn't a hope in hell" of playing in the All-Ireland final.
Meanwhile, Brian Hogan will visit Waterford-based surgeon Tadhg O'Sullivan later today to assess the damage to the finger he sustained before 8,000 people at Nowlan Park.
Hogan is recovering from collar bone damage he sustained against Cork and this may be a setback too far for the centre-back.
Tennyson is still a major doubt and has less game time behind him than Shefflin, putting the importance of Hogan into perspective.