Former Cork hurler Mark Landers has expressed his hope that the first sending off in the 14 seasons of Henry Shefflin’s inter-county career is not also the final chapter for the Kilkenny legend.
Shefflin saw red for a second bookable offence during Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final gainst Cork – which the Rebels won 0-19 to 0-14.
“I was saddened that Henry was sent off,” Landers told RTÉ Sport. “As hurling person number one. But as an individual and as an ambassador for hurling, Shefflin has been the top player and the best player that I have ever seen.”
Discussing the manner in which some careers can end, Landers highlighted the final game of Offaly great Brian Whelehan, who was sent off in Birr’s loss to Portumna in the All Ireland club final.
“He (Whelehan) was sent off in similar circumstances in the club All-Ireland, with the last puck of the game a number of years ago. In his last match.
“And i just hope from Henry’s point of view, this isn’t the way he’ll bow out of inter-county hurling. And i hope he’ll come back next year and fight to try to atone for what happened yesterday.”
"Who better to yellow card than Henry Shefflin? The best hurler in the country. He was trying to set the tone"
In the aftermath of the defeat to Cork, many have questioned whether both yellow cards were warranted.
“Barry Kelly. He’s a top class referee. But i was sitting with Kilkenny supporters yesterday, and when he got the first yellow card, the first thing i said to them was – 'it’s going to be a long 70 minutes for Henry Shefflin.'
“I think if the yellow cards were reversed – I don’t think Barry Kelly would have given Henry Shefflin the second yellow card. I think the first one was a kind of a ‘listen lads, this game isn’t gonna get out of hand...'
"Who better to yellow card than Henry Shefflin? The best hurler in the country. He was trying to set the tone for the game. But look – that’s the way it is. In today’s modern game, the referees seem to be flashing yellow cards way easier than they used to be. I think there’s an instruction coming from Croke Park to stamp out certain types of play
“I think a fair bit of this may come down to club game as well – at club level there’s an awful lot more sendings off – fellas tend to be a lot more physical and use the hurley an awful lot more. If you stamp it out at inter-county level it will feed its way down to club level.”
The aftermath of the game has prompted much talk of an era ending and Landers believes many of the Kilkenny squad may take their lead from Brian Cody.
“I think the next four months for five or six of the Kilkenny players will be interesting. JJ, Tommy, Eoin Larkin, Henry, - those four players will look at themselves and say have we got enough? Is there one more lash in us?”
“Brian Cody is obviously going to take time out – and he’s going to consider his situation. I do believe that if Brian Cody does step down as Kilkenny manager, I think you will see a good few of the players retiring with him.
“But I think if Cody continues – he’ll bring the lads with him to have one more go.”