Brian Cody has no doubts about remaining at Kilkenny helm

Entering his 19th season, Cody has no fears the conveyor belt of underage success is at an end

“If we were to start thinking about things like ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’, or whatever . . .” says Brian Cody, without actually finishing that sentence. Which may or may not explain why he’s continuing for a 19th season as Kilkenny hurling manager.

Either way, Cody’s thought process works a little different to other managers – the first question they would normally ask themselves is “should I or shouldn’t I?” Cody clearly takes each year on its own terms, as if there is no past.

Cody always says too that every team is “in transition”, although now without any survivors of Kilkenny’s four-in-a-row, 2006-09, does he at least admit the future may not be as secure as it once was?

“It’s not a question of doubts about Kilkenny getting back. Or anything like that. We were in the All-Ireland final. We weren’t good enough to win the final. Next year has the same challenges as every other year. And my head settled the same way as any other year. We’ll just see what happens next year.”


Cody was speaking in Dublin at the launch of “Leadership in Sport, Lessons for Business”, a sports conference event in Dublin next month, the proceeds of which will go towards creating a National Centre of Excellence for Hurling at St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny – the traditional breeding ground of the county’s All-Ireland champions. (See

Underage success

The timing of that is interesting in that Kilkenny’s conveyor belt of underage success appears to have slowed in recent years: “I don’t think there are fears, no,” he says. “At the same time, the statistics as regards our success at underage for the past few years hasn’t been where we’d like it to be. But the feeder schools are doing great work.

“St Kieran’s, and all the other schools as well, both secondary and primary, are huge human resources, from a teacher point of view and a resource point of view. That’s certainly working in everyone’s favour. St Kieran’s College has a huge tradition in hurling and in academics, and it’s about trying to provide facilities that are fit for purpose going into the future.

Cody has never made or accepted any excuses for the nine-point defeat to Tipperary this year (Kilkenny’s heaviest final defeat in 52 years), describing some of the criticism of his full-back line of Paul Murphy, Joey Holden and captain Shane Prendergast (which conceded 2-21 to the Tipp full-forward line) as a “very, very cheap sort of analysis of the game”.

He’s since lost two members of that panel, Jackie Tyrrell and Eoin Larkin, that last links with that four-in-a-row (with the exception of Cody himself); neither of those players were exceptional underage talents, either.

“No, there’s no suggestion you have to have that underage success. Some people get that, some people don’t, but their careers from the age of 20, 21, to the time they finished, was just top drawer.

“For Eoin, to go on and be hurler of the year, that’s something. They had the skill but with the two lads, their commitment was complete. Their attitude was top class, their determination on the field, their determination off the field to be absolutely ready for every game and every challenge was total.”

Galway issue

Cody is also keen for Galway to remain in the Leinster championship, despite a motion at their county convention that they’ll move to the province which accepts all grades – senior, under-21 and minor; currently, only the Galway seniors play in Leinster, and there’s also unease in the county with the fact they’re not entitled to any home games.

“Well, wherever the match is fixed for we’ll play, simple as that,” says Cody, on the question of whether Kilkenny would ever agree to playing Galway in Galway. “And I think it’s been beneficial, for sure, for the Leinster championship (to have Galway). They’re a top team and having them over there on their own, with regards to senior intercounty matches is certainly not ideal for them, and for hurling in general. They’ve been a huge part of the Leinster championship. I’d prefer to see them stay there.

“I think the competition out there at the moment at intercounty level is huge. I think the number of counties that are going to be absolutely competitive, there’s a lot of them there. The potential counties to be ultimately successful is very, very high as well. Our challenge is to be one of those.”

Kilkenny will head to San Diego at the end of the month for a team holiday, but will play in the Walsh Cup in January, even if an under-21 selection will feature in their opening game. He also expects Michael Fennelly to back on board for 2017 despite his injury concerns.

“He’s had the Achilles tendon operation. He’s in rehab at the moment. He will continue to be in that and he’s going to be there for a few months. It’s a difficult one, it’s a tough one. But he’s absolutely going to give it every possible chance to come back.

“He’s a player that has gone through some tough times with injuries and that but he’s dug out a wonderful career, coping with that, which he deserves great credit for. But again, that’s part and parcel of sport for so many people and this is another challenge for so many people and it’s one he’s determined to win.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics