There was good and bad news for Kilkenny hurling this week.
Star attacker T.J. Reid returned to action after nearly eight months of inactivity.
However, nine-time All-Ireland medal winner Henry Shefflin fell victim to injury again after initially saying he was ready to make a return.
“I am back doing work,” Shefflin told the ’People. “It is early days yet, but I am hoping to stay moving forward.”
However, 24 hours later, Shefflin broke down with a foot injury while training with his club on Monday nighht. He will now miss the opening round of the Leinster senior hurling championship against Offaly in Tullamore on June 9.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks man has travelled this road before. He battled back after two separate cruciate ligament injuries, then a shoulder injury.
It is known that Shefflin has been training with his club, and a return was being secretly planned for Friday’s senior league clash against Clara.
All those plans have been shelved. There is no set date for a return.
“That is sport,” he said. “You get good days and bad days, but I will just have to battle on.”
The All-Ireland champions will definitely have T.J. Reid available for the Leinster championship.
Reid got through a full 60 minutes as Ballyhale Shamrocks demolished Danesfort in their senior hurling league game at the weekend.
“It’s a nice feeling to be back hurling,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming - this was my first game since the All-Ireland so it’s nice to be back playing again. I’m a bit rusty still, so it’ll take a few more games to get into the swing of things again.”
The scale of the comeback is even more incredible given the length of time Reid spent on the sidelines. It was seven and a half months since he suffered a broken kneecap in the All-Ireland final replay against Galway.
“It was a big operation as people realise when they see the scar (Reid has a permanent reminder of the injury in the form of a deep scar running down along his kneecap),” he said. “I’ve been back in the gym since November - while the rest of the lads were off enjoying themselves I was slogging away!
“It was strange getting my gear together ready for the game,” he said. “I was a little nervous. You’d have a little caution going into challenges early on when hurls are flying everywhere - the last thing you’d want to have that injury again - but as time goes on that’ll go out of my head.”
“It’s nice to be back, but it’s going to take a while to get back up to the level of the sharpness and speed of the game.”
Ironically, Kilkenny’s success in the league was a factor in his comeback.
“If Kilkenny hadn’t been in the league final I might have been in contention to come on as a sub, but that extra week gave me a chance to make the starting team,” he said. Now I’ve had this game and will have the third round of the league to play. After that it’s three weeks to the start of the championship, so I’ll have been able to get a few games under my belt. The competition for places in this Kilkenny team is fairly tough so I’ll have to make sure I’m flying.”
The competition for places is not just limited to Kilkenny. Shamrocks proved that by using five subs in Saturday’s win over Danesfort.
“And sure, we have Henry to come back as well,” he smiled, adding the reminder - as if it was needed. “Competition for places is good. It keeps people on their toes down in training. If everyone is giving it 100% then it’s a help. If you’re taking it easy in training you’ll have the same reactions when it comes to matches.
It’s great to be back and to have everyone fit again. It’s a long year yet, so my priority is to get myself right.”
And Reid marked his comeback in style, netting a second half goal in the 2-17 to 0-7 win.
“That helped get my confidence back,” he said. “I’d been out of hurling for a long time, so getting that goal was a nice way of getting back in the action.”