John Horgan: Hurling managers keeping a watchful eye on club form

Across the country, from Kieran Kingston to new Galway boss Henry Shefflin, inter-county bainisteoirs are keenly watching the closing stages of the club championships 
John Horgan: Hurling managers keeping a watchful eye on club form

Kilmallock manager and Echo hurling columnist Tony Considine during the Limerick final win over Patrickswell at TUS Gaelic Grounds. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

THE latter stages of the championship have been reached in most counties at this stage with a few already done and dusted.

Ballygunner, as is nearly expected now, retained the Waterford title while Kilmallock, under a management team led by Tony Considine of this parish, came in from the cold to see off Patrickswell in the final in the home of the All-Ireland champions on Shannonside.

Kilmallock will now have home advantage in the Munster Club Championship against the Cork champions and that will be an onerous task, without doubt, for whoever emerges in the coming weeks.

That’s for another day but everything is now beginning to lead up to the provincial and All-Ireland inter-county campaigns for the 10 competing teams.

Here in Munster, there will be just one new boss taking the reins, Colm Bonnar in Tipperary while Wexford and Galway will have Darren Gleeson and Henry Shefflin respectively hoping that they can make the required impression.

Shefflin’s appointment has certainly been the big talking point in the hurling world over the past few weeks, the most decorated hurler of all time putting himself firmly in the spotlight in a county that has more often than not failed to deliver when the expectation levels were quite high.

Cork fans will get an opportunity to witness the great man behind the white line in the NHL campaign of 2022 and that will add greater interest to that particular clash.

It will be a similar story when the Tribesmen go up against the other counties in Division 1A before the far more serious stuff of the championship gets underway.

When a new manager enters the equation the supporters from that particular county will always hope for an initial bounce that they hope may lead to bigger and better things further down the line.

That will most certainly be the case in Galway with Shefflin.

His appointment was certainly something that took the hurling world by complete surprise because just a few days prior to that occurrence it had been reported in some media circles that Davy Fitzgerald was set for the job.

But until any appointment is signed, sealed and delivered you can never be certain and we have had plenty of speculation in all counties down the years when a managerial vacancy occurs.

By agreeing to become the next boss of the Galway senior hurling team, Shefflin has put himself in a position where he will be plotting the downfall of the county where he will forever be revered as one of the true greats of the game.

Shefflin will not face his own county in the group stage of the NHL as Galway and Kilkenny are in different groups.

Newly appointed Galway hurling manager Henry Shefflin at Ballyhale Shamrocks versus James Stephens. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Newly appointed Galway hurling manager Henry Shefflin at Ballyhale Shamrocks versus James Stephens. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

However, it won’t be that long before Shefflin will stand a few yards away from Brian Cody in a major Leinster championship encounter that might well determine the fate of the two counties in the battle for provincial and All-Ireland honours.

That duel is set for Pearse Stadium in early May and it surely will be the most anticipated clash of the entire Summer.

In fact, a Kilkenny loss and a subsequent failure to be one of the three counties to emerge from Leinster Into the All-Ireland arena might well spell the end of the longest managerial reign of all time.

That is probably unlikely to happen, however, as Kilkenny will surely be one of that trio to go forward.

But you never know and there will be a hugely anticipated fascination with the meeting of Cody and Shefflin that will capture everybody’s imagination.

Shefflin’s greatness as a player cannot and will never be challenged by anyone but the cutthroat nature of inter-county hurling management and its demands offer up an entirely different challenge altogether for the Ballyhale maestro.

Right across the country at this point in time, inter-county team bosses are keeping a very close eye on the proceedings being played out in front of them in the hope that some fresh talent will emerge that might catapult them on the bigger stage.

With the business end of the season now having been reached, inter-county bosses will be desperate for players that they might have in mind for duty to come up trumps and put their name forward.

Here on Leeside, Kieran Kingston must have one or two or maybe more from the Rockies, Glen, Midleton and Sars in mind and he will want them to step up to the plate in next Sunday’s two county semi-finals.

And you can be sure that Kilmallock boss, Tony Considine will be an interested spectator at Páirc Uí Chaoimh as he studies what will be the opposition for his team in the club championship.

This is the time of the year when a player’s ambition to play for his county really comes into question.

It could be make-or-break time for some and it’s also a time when an inter-county boss might see something that tells him that this player or that player might have something to offer.

The step up to inter-county competition for any player is vast and while some might be called only a few will be chosen. The winter might be upon us but there is much to look forward to on all fronts going forward.

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