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Kilkenny hurler Joey Holden pictured at the launch of Avonmore Protein Gold.
Kilkenny hurler Joey Holden pictured at the launch of Avonmore Protein Gold.

Joey Holden praises Henry Shefflin's influence

By Cian O'Connell

Henry Shefflin's remarkable stint in charge of Ballyhale Shamrocks culminated in two Kilkenny, Leinster, and All Ireland titles.

So Joey Holden is completely aware of the significant coaching impact made by Shefflin with his native club.

The decision to step down wasn't discussed in the build up to Shamrocks' recent AIB national decider against Borris-Ileigh.

"No, we didn't know at all," Holden says. "He didn't make any reference to it at all. The big focus was on the match, he celebrated a few days with us as well. He met us then later that week to tell us he was stepping down.

"I don't think any of it dampened the spirits, it was just when he explained his reasons why. Family commitments, he has five young kids and I think everyone understood the big commitment he had put into it.

"He said when he took over he would do two or three years, we didn't expect that it would be two full on years as it was.

"Henry is the type of manager or character who is all in or not in at all. There is no half measures.

"It is a big commitment. I think he just wants to enjoy this summer with his family before he potentially looks at future jobs, whatever he wants to go into then."

The most decorated hurling club in the land retained the All Ireland for the first time in their proud history.

Holden acknowledges that it meant something extra to a gifted collection of players.

Henry Shefflin guided Ballyhale Shamrocks to two AIB All Ireland Club titles.
Henry Shefflin guided Ballyhale Shamrocks to two AIB All Ireland Club titles.

"Yeah, absolutely it would have been a driving factor a bit," Holden admits. "We would have mentioned it, we have history in Ballyhale, but we had never done this. We would have compared the teams that did it - Athenry, Cuala, them teams, who did it before.

"We looked at that and said it was a savage opportunity to emulate that, to match these teams. "Try to build on the tradition that is in Ballyhale, it was definitely a factor, and mentioned coming up to the final."

Ultimately Shefflin's relevance will always endure in Ballyhale.

"Massive," Holden replies. "He’s been such an influence on so many careers in Ballyhale. Little hurlers growing up wanted to be Henry Shefflin or mark Henry Shefflin.

"He’s certainly brought a high level of professionalism almost to a club scene which would be unheard of. But certainly to mention his backroom team as well.

"You’ve Richie O’Neill, Paddy Phelan who’s a selector, James Fitzgerald, my own brother does the gear, and you had Tommy Shefflin, his brother is a trainer. So they were all top class as well. He surrounded himself with top class people, but he was the one that gathered all that together, spear-lined everything."

How Shefflin organised and extracted displays from Shamrocks' emerging and established players was critical.

"The detail that they went into was really brought onto another level," Holden adds.

"So absolutely phenomenal. The big thing for me with the manager is they say the right thing at the right time, and he seemed to nail that every time.

"Whether we played a bad match, what to say, whether we played a good match, to keep us grounded. All the time he seemed to hit the nail on the head."

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