Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin was a surprise announcement by the Galway GAA as the new manager of the Galway hurling team. It was much rumored that former Clare and Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald was going to take the reins at Galway, but with Shefflin’s appointment coming out of nowhere there will be big question over what Galway will be able to achieve next year.
There has been much talk in the media since his appointment about how Shefflin could be just what this team needs. This is in spite of the fact that this is his first intercounty job, his playing credentials and winning the club All-Ireland at the helm of Ballyhale Shamrocks in 2019 have done enough to convince people he has what it takes to bring Galway back into All-Ireland contention next year.
Galway are coming off from a disappointing championship performance last year and with the departure of key man Joe Canning, Shefflin must work quickly to fill the gap left in his wake if he hopes to hit the ground running with the team next year.
The departure of Joe Canning will however be the first stumbling block for Shefflin with this Galway team, losing the team’s arguably best player before he gets in the door I’m sure is something Shefflin would have rather not have to deal with. It is important that Shefflin replaces his presence not just on the pitch, but off it as well.
It is, however, an experienced team that Shefflin has inherited with most of the 2017 All-Ireland winning team still around there probably won’t be a massive overhaul needed to get this squad back into contention. The likes of Conor Whelan and the Cooney’s will now need to step up their games in the absence of Canning and in Evan Niland is a player who can take over the free taking responsibilities and do an okay Canning impression.
The questions still remain and his lack of managerial experience at inter-county level means that there are no guarantees here. With Shefflin coming in with a very similar managerial CV as previous manager Shane O’Neill you have to hope from a Galway point of view that his standing within the game will be enough to win over the players early on.
Shefflin has broken many Galway fans hearts, but you have to hope that he can mend a few of them over the next few years.