‘It was a huge test . . . a test you love to get for players’
Brian Cody proud of his charges as Kilkenny shade an enthralling final against great rivals Tipperary
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody following his team’s thrilling league final victory over Tipperary at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Another league ends and Brian Cody celebrated the retention of the Allianz hurling title for the third successive year by remaining on the field in Semple stadium to meet and greet lingering Kilkenny fans. Happy times.
Cody grinned when asked about the one issue which had mystified observers over the course of the game. Midway through the first half, he had disappeared into the Tipperary dug out, seemingly exercised by something or someone. He re-emerged at the coaxing of officials and later spoke with Tipperary selector Michael Ryan, who trotted up the line in peace-broking mode. They spoke, turned back to the match, the hurling became more gripping and the incident was soon forgotten. Entirely.
“What was that? Fill me in on that. With extra time, it is hard to imagine all the things that happened. I think I made mistake on which bench I was at. We are neighbouring counties and who knows what can happen...”
What happened was that Tipperary asked demanding questions of Kilkenny and somehow Cody’s team found an answer yet again. Kilkenny held true to their vow to expand the experience of their panel over the spring and did no evident loss of form. Jackie Tyrell looked at home at number six, Michael Fennelly came through a gruelling 90 minutes and if Mark Kelly, a goal machine early in the league, had a tough afternoon, then TJ Reid was on fire. They found a way.
“It was a great game. For everybody, for people to look at and to take part in. It was just....mad stuff.”
“It was a huge test...a test you love to get for players and they stood up to it great but that is not a surprise. We would be satisfied with the strength of our panel, yeah. It is not settled. I am not concerned with that...I am concerned that we have 26 for every match day.”
In the tunnel, Eamon O’Shea stood with his arms folded and his head held high. Tipperary finished what was a testing league season with a hugely impressive performance which contained everything except the right result for them. O’Shea responded to questions on this final like a reluctant court witness.
“There was no difference. Really proud of the players. They were outstanding. They showed real coolness to work that score.”
Maybe the terseness reflected the Tipperary management’s frustration at the sense that they were subjected to a public grilling after a few negative league results. Or perhaps its origins can be traced to the sombre realisation that you can play this well against Kilkenny and still lose.
To O’Shea’s credit, he rejected the easy excuse of refereeing decisions in summing up this game and preferred to emphasise the same thing as he pointed out during the bleaker Sundays when nothing seemed to click for Tipp’.
“I think we need Hawkeye out there! Ah sure, look referees....what happens in a game happens in a game. You get penalties, you don’ t. . . . “
Noel McGrath, who illuminated the day with several wizard touches and 0-5 from play stopped to briefly assess the closing chapter of the league.
“It was disappointing...to lose by a point in the last minute in a league final like that. But we will just have to regroup now . . . we have four weeks to the Limerick match and we will get back to the field during the week and get going again. I suppose a game like this takes a life of its own and you can’t really say what’s gonna happen. It was up and down and just unfortunate there that we weren’t ahead at the end. We are very disappointed and looking forward to the championship.”
Nearby, Michael Fennelly grinned as he leaned on a hurl and tried to recall the details of a non-stop 90 minutes.
“I don’t know if I hit a ball in the last 20 minutes, just running around trying to stop lads and watching runs and stuff and thankfully we came out at the end. A good performance is what we were looking for and it was nice to bring home a trophy as well.”
He laughed when asked to repeat what was said at both half-times – in normal game and the extra period.
“To be honest, I haven’t a clue what was said. It was just work rate. Digging deeper the whole time. It was work rate and discipline.That is always our focus. I am delighted- and famished now at this stage.”