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Class act Shefflin ready to join immortals

By John Campbell

Henry Shefflin stands on the threshold of true sporting greatness when he lines out with Kilkenny in tomorrow’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship final against Tipperary at Croke Park (3.30pm).

Should the Cats avenge last year’s final defeat at the hands of the Premier county, then 32-year-old Shefflin will take delivery of his eighth medal and thus join the immortal Christy Ring and John Doyle in the All-Ireland Hall of Fame.

Shefflin won his first All-Ireland gong in 2000 and has also shared in 11 Leinster championship successes, collected nine Allstar awards and amassed five National League medals.

It’s an honours haul that bears rich testimony to his long-term commitment, phenomenal finishing skills and remarkable consistency.

Yet despite his enormous achievements and those of the current Kilkenny side, Shefflin remains cautious as he prepares to face a Tipperary side anxious to replicate their feat of last year.

“We would expect that Tipperary will be even more fired-up than last year and that they will want to really prove themselves by landing back-to-back titles,” states the modest and unassuming Shefflin.

Tomorrow, he will be flanked by the prodigiously talented Richie Hogan and Richie Power in a potent Kilkenny attack while Noel Hickey, Tommy Walsh and J J Delaney will again help underpin a defence which is all too well aware that Tipperary scored an astonishing 14 goals in winning the Munster title.

But while Kilkenny boast a formidable arsenal up front Declan Ryan’s side are not without their own marquee forwards.

And none is better when it comes to putting scores on the board than Lar Corbett and skipper Eoin Kelly. Corbett’s insatiable appetite for goals has certainly served the side well this year although he could find Kilkenny’s muscular resistance somewhat claustrophobic.

Tipperary’s raging hunger to make it back-to-back triumphs and Kilkenny’s searing ambition to regain their throne automatically decree that this will be the ultimate war of attrition with substance and steel perhaps rather more in evidence than style and sparkle.

Don’t be too surprised, though, if by tea-time tomorrow Shefflin’s entry into the pantheon of great hurling legends has been confirmed.

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Fermanagh footballer Mark McGovern will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Monday still a patient in San Francisco General Hospital where he has been since late June having suffered life-threatening head injuries during a club game in the US.

After five weeks in a coma, he has come through a major liver complaint, the MRSA super bug and a bout of pneumonia. Not only has Mark successfully battled these various illnesses but he has now started an intensive course of rehabilitation.

Tomorrow a major collection to aid Mark’s Support Fund, set up in Mark's name by his club Belcoo O’Rahillys, to help pay for the extensive medical bills — believed to total $100,000 to date — will be taken up at at Croke Park and a similar collection will be taken up at the football final.

Belfast Telegraph

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