Sports fans may hanker for the fairytale ending to every season but it’s only when winning becomes anti-climactic does true greatness really shine through.
When Kilkenny won their ninth All-Ireland senior hurling title in 14 years last Sunday with an incredible display of passion and courage you couldn’t but sense the disappointment among the neutral hurling fans, desperate for a change of order.
However, the absence of novel tears of joy witnessed the previous week when Donegal landed their second only All-Ireland football crown doesn’t mask the phenomenal sporting achievement delivered by manager Brian Cody and his Kilkenny hurling dynasty.
And, quite frankly, having landed a record-breaking ninth medal as a starting player and yet again a pivotal influence in the final, Henry Shefflin is now arguably the greatest Irish sports person that ever lived.
It’s easy sometimes to dismiss the achievements of our indigenous sportsmen who are denied international notoriety by virtue of their selfless devotion to our amateur Gaelic games.
The eyes of the world do not see Shefflin’s extraordinary feats; his incredible sporting talent, athletic prowess, fearless application and courageous leadership.
Yet those who understand our ancient game know only too well what it takes to become the greatest in this warrior sport.
Four 14 years he has started every single championship game for his county despite rupturing cruciate ligaments in his knee twice during that period. For the past ten years he has been the iconic figure in one of the most remarkable games in the world.
On the cusp of his 11th All-Star award and with two highly sought after All-Ireland club hurling medals in his honor-laden trophy cabinet, Shefflin is unlikely to be caught, even by his own highly decorated Kilkenny team-mates.
As part of the greatest hurling team of all time you could be forgiven for saying that the Ballyhale man is merely a great player surfing the crest of the wave. However, it is the profound influence he has exerted on this team’s efforts that marks him apart. Shefflin is the pivotal player of this era.
After appearing as an ambassador for the Gaelic Players Association’s visit to the US last year, Henry Shefflin will once again be appearing in New York this November as a member of the GPA’s Dinner Committee for the Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards in Times Square.
The GPA Awards Gala, which will honor US corporate champion of Ireland Don Keough, coincides with the visit of the All-Star football teams of 2011 and 2012.
Shefflin of course will be representing his code of hurling, appearing with the coveted Liam MacCarthy Cup, a trophy he has had in his grasp for nine of the last 14 years.
As an ambassador for his county, his sport and his country, no one could be more appropriate.
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