Contented Cody makes his winter retreat
GAELIC GAMES:ONE OF these days Brian Cody will surprise us all with a profound statement of content, that he’s had enough of winning, or at least trying to win. And one of these days the polar ice cap will melt.
Cody formally delivered All-Ireland hurling title number nine back to Kilkenny yesterday evening, and earlier, in a parting shot at the team hotel in Dublin, spoke with the sense of a man still stuck comfortably between the past and the future.
“Well I’m going to enjoy this as ever,” he said. “I like to enjoy these occasions, then we’ll look forward to the club matches and that. But I haven’t a clue what I’m doing next year, not the slightest clue. Sure I make it up as I go along.”
This has become Cody’s way of saying of course he’ll continue, as long as he’s allowed to, and on his own terms. Some people felt, or at least wrote, that defeat to Galway on Sunday might force Cody to consider his future as manager, although that’s the last thing that will ever force his hand.
“I’ll be very honest with you,” he says. “I didn’t read papers at all since the last day at all. I didn’t even read a report on the last day’s match. I decided I wouldn’t and I didn’t, kind of keeping your head to yourself. I don’t concern myself about what other people’s concerns are.
“If I start worrying what other people think of it I would start putting doubts in my own head. I’ll keep the auld head clear and I don’t worry what other people think. At the end of the day the team has to be picked by ourselves and we have to do what we think is right.”
What is certain, and Cody agrees, is when he started out as manager in 1999 he could never once have dreamed or imagined where he’d end up today, not that dreaming was ever a part of it.
“No, not the slightest idea, but I don’t think about what’s going to happen next year, or the year after. I don’t think about what happened last year either. I just kept working away, and I had no clue about where it was going. I knew where I wanted to go, but that wasn’t counting years or how long I wanted to be in the job. I just wanted to do what I do and take it as far as I could.”
He’s asked if All-Ireland number nine is any more or less sweet than the rest, and the answer is as expected: “Listen, it’s superb. Noel Hickey and Henry [Shefflin] have nine All-Ireland medals now, which is an amazing thing to achieve. That’s fantastic obviously, but every All-Ireland is special.
“You look at Henry and Noel winning nine All-Irelands and then you look at Walter Walsh winning his first All-Ireland medal. There’s all sorts. The individuals have to be named and deserve enormous praise and credit. But it’s everyone involved, the whole panel concerned within the whole group and that’s what makes it brilliant for ourselves.”
It helps that Kilkenny keep producing the raw material, but reproducing the freshness, and hunger, is not so straightforward.
“People keep asking the question about that. There is a skill in ensuring they are fresh and keeping them right, we have quality people looking after that. Mick Dempsey looks after our conditioning and he’s outstanding at that, as he’s proven again and again. Martin [Fogarty], Mick and myself are there, we have a great medical team with us as well. and they are key to the whole thing.”
It also took some old-school audacity to start three under-21s in an All-Ireland final: “It goes back to the aging team myth and the questions that were asked about the depth of our panel. The panel is strong, the panel has always been strong. All we talk about is the present and I thought it was an outstanding performance, to be honest. That’s the key to it. Again, we won’t concern ourselves about the future. The present is good, the present is good.”
And what about Shefflin – and potential All-Ireland number 10? Shefflin admitted after Sunday’s win he’d worried about his own future as recently as last June.
“Henry would be entitled to be worried, concerned, because he was coming back from a serious injury. The question for us was ‘is Henry playing well enough to play?’
He obviously was and if he wasn’t obviously it would be a different story. I mean Henry is just amazing.”