Monday , April 19 2021

Henry Shefflin's letter that inspired Conor McDonald

Conor McDonald hopes to inflict the first setback in Henry Shefflin's managerial career tomorrow, 12 years after a letter came from Shefflin that had so much influence on his own ambitions thrown.

After helping Naomh Éanna de Gorey win the first Wexford SHC title, McDonald's Inter-County will face 16-time champion Kilkenny Ballyhale Shamrocks in the Leinster semi-final with the old legend of the Cats, Shefflin, in the front seat.

McDonald faced Shefflin once on the field when Kilkenny defeated Wexford in the Allianz League in 2014, but an earlier encounter was even more memorable.

"I remember marking JJ Delaney and thinking" This is surreal; I can not believe this is happening. " Between Rory Jacob and me, we raised the ball to the goal and got a huge roar, but that was short lived: when Henry arrived and received the biggest roar of the day.

"Sharing the speech with Henry is something I would never have thought of until it happened. It was ending and I was just getting started. Going home from the game that day, you think of everything, like the letter he sent me.

Shefflin wrote a two-page letter to 11-year-old McDonald eight years earlier.

"It was December 2006 and we won our first medal in the county and only the county medal until adulthood. It was Under-12 playing against the Rapparees and I played with the likes of the main team faces, Eoin Conroy, Pádraig Doyle, Seán Doyle and Gearóid Cullen. "

The letter had an enormous influence. McDonald would soon choose to wear a green helmet. Black Puma Kings have been added to their Santy list.

"As he reads, he says," I hope you keep getting better as you grow and I have no doubt that at some point I'll be watching you at Croke Park wearing Purple and Gold.

"When you're 11 years old, if your idol says something like that to you, it's like you're driving."

"It's strange that the chain of events has happened," said McDonald, who admired Henry's successful transition to management.

"All you think about is their success: 10 Irish county titles and three Irish club titles. When he steps on the other end of the line and when he's trying to dictate things on the sideline, you do not think this is the first time he's managing. Going in and winning a county final in your first year is serious. It is a great achievement for him personally to have a kick-off.

He is determined, however, to write another chapter in Naomh's success story Éanna.

"At the moment, every game we're playing seems to be the most exciting thing in our lives. The whole town was furious. We continue thinking, "When is the next, when is the next". We try to win another game and keep the ball rolling. "

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