WHAT Henry Shefflin and Noel Skehan have accomplished is a great achievement, writes Noel Skehan.
They won their nine All-Irelands over a short period, 13 seasons, which was tremendous altogether.
No one knows the amount of work and effort they had to put into their game, and the sacrifices they had to make to be as successful as they were.
Henry, for example, astonished the way he kept going in the face of awful trials like two severed cruciate ligaments and then a shoulder injury. That was unbelievable. One cruciate ligament injury has finished many a career. Two really pushed him to the limit.
But then getting the bad shoulder injury on top of that; some might have simply packed up and left the game said it wasn’t worth it any more.
Not Henry. He has a dedication to hurling that is like that of a professional athlete.
I used to see him working in the gym in Hotel Kilkenny.
The work he had to do in the early parts of the season getting over the injuries was unreal.
It was a major victory in itself to even get back playing, never mind to the level he attained.
It was something similar with Noel Hickey. He is a farmer, whose most demanding time of the year comes around All-Ireland time. Yet he manages to find the time to keep everything going.
His career was nearly cut short by a heart complaint a few years ago. I think he had to take a full year out.
He was also dogged by hamstring and groin injuries from time to time during his careet. Yet he returned as good as every; as strong as ever and with an appetite that was as wonderful as ever.
They are great men, the two of them. To win nine All-Ireland medals after putting up with the problems they overcame was little short of remarkable.
When people didn’t see them hurling at the worst of times they were doing serious rehab work to get into a position where they might be able to play again.
No matter how good anything is, unless you work on your talent it is no good.
Winning hurling matches is a team effort. But the two boys had to win a lot of challenges away from the field of play as well.
They never shirked the hard work, or a hard challenge.
They are real battlers, real leaders, the sort you look to when things are not going well for the team.
It is a fantastic achievement for them, something the whole county should celebrate.
Think of all the good players, the good teams they played with? It is a galaxy of stars. They have that something that they can handle pressure.
That can have a lot to do with confidence. You have to have the belief in yourself that you know you can go out and do it. Then you have to put in the hard work and effort.
They never shied away from that. Ability, concentration and effort always shone through in their game.
They are the ultimate team players. No one wins anything without the team. Henry and Noel always had confidence in their own and the team’s ability to perform.
The team, the team, and the good of the team, was always high on their agenda.
These are the kind of guys who fear no challenge.
They are the kind of guys you need in the dressing-rooms. They help the new guys coming through as well.
They have a wealth of experience, and they use it well.
You could always depend on Noel and Henry to be there for the team and their collelagues in the toughest of times.
Big players in dressing-room
You can’t put a price on a personality like they have in a dressing-room.
Henry and Noel weren’t just big players, there was an awful lot more to the package they brought to the squad.
They are getting plenty of plaudits, but they deserved them all.
The game is in a new era with different training methods and so forth. The two boys have taken all of that in their stride. They knew they had to, but it didn’t faze them.
If they didn’t maintain their fitness level, and keep up the effort, they wouldn’t make the top 15 in Kilkenny.
In fairness to them they upped every aspect of their game to survive at where the game is now.
They are an inspiration to the young players of today.
Any young back of forward who has ambitions of playing with Kilkenny have to look at Noel and Henry as role models.
It is not an easy thing to survive at inter-county level.
It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. Again I must mention the months and months they had to work on their own to get back after injuries and illness.
That was something. I salute them on their efforts and achievement.
You couldn’t say enough good things about the two of them, and the noble way they achieved all they achieved.