Brian Cody remains unruffled in advance of Cork clash

Kilkenny manager will continue to ‘bed in younger players’ despite two league defeats

Brian Cody: “I wouldn’t say we are in a difficult place. We’re in a difficult league. It is a competitive league.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Two rounds into any league competition is a little early to start talking about a ‘backlash’, although still no county presents a greater threat of it than Kilkenny.

With the Allianz Hurling League resuming this weekend after its brief spring hiatus, Division 1A is heading for one of its familiar logjams with just one obvious exception: Kilkenny are sitting alone at the bottom the table, the only team without any points to their name and an unhealthy scoring difference of -14.

Five points were enough to secure a quarter-final place in Division 1A of last year’s league, and Tipperary – the only team in the top division with a 100 per cent record – can effectively seal that deal if they manage even a draw against Clare at Semple Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Cork, meanwhile, travel to Nowlan Park to play Kilkenny both forewarned and forearmed. Their convincing win over Clare in round one was then contrasted by a fair hammering from Dublin in round two, and manager Kieran Kingston won’t be fooled into thinking Kilkenny are somehow less of a force to be reckoned with.


We have work to do, for sure. That is the challenge in front of us. Lads have to be given time and space to find their way.

Nor it seems is Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. He was typically unruffled in the aftermath of their defeat to Clare in round two, admitting his team “didn’t play well in the first half”, before gently adding that they “didn’t play well in the second half either”.

Speaking at a media event in Kilkenny this week, that unruffled attitude still prevailed: “I wouldn’t say we are in a difficult place,” said Cody. “We’re in a difficult league. It is a competitive league. That is what it is, the league,” stated Cody.

“We have work to do, for sure. That is the challenge in front of us. Lads have to be given time and space to find their way. Absolutely, for sure. We are trying to bed in younger players. We don’t have everyone available to us, but that is the way we are at the moment.”

Conveyor belt

While there is the sense Kilkenny’s fast-running conveyor belt of underage talent may be slowing down, truth is they have been here before, as recently as 2013. Cody’s team opening that year’s league campaign with a defeat in Galway, 3-11 to 0-17, and that was followed by a second round defeat in Tipperary, 2-17 to 1-19.

Talk of the ‘backlash’ surfaced then, too, and duly arrived in their next game, when Kilkenny beat Waterford in Nowlan Park. They then beat Clare and Cork to reach the semi-finals, where they promptly inflicted some revenge on Galway, winning 1-24 to 1-17. To then perfectly complete the ‘backlash’, Kilkenny beat Tipp in the league final, 2-17 to 0-20, Cody’s then seventh league title as manager.

“The priority for us in the league is always to try to win it. I think that’s the same for every team. Do we want to win it? Of course we do, but it’s going to be very, very difficult.”

That was Cody speaking less than a month ago, after Kilkenny had beaten Galway to win the Walsh Cup. Sunday’s game may ultimately prove just how much Kilkenny want to win the league but also whether or not they still actually can. Another defeat and a quarter-final place will almost certainly be beyond them.

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham, meanwhile, has also hinted at a potential backlash from the visitors as his team take on Waterford at Croke Park, part of Saturday’s double-bill that also features Dublin against Mayo in the Allianz Football League.


Waterford inflicted Kilkenny’s opening defeat in round one, which also marked the county’s first win against the hosts at Nowlan Park for 13 years. All-Ireland champions Tipperary then beat Waterford at Walsh Park in round two, and Cunningham, although buoyed by Dublin’s round two win over Cork at Páirc Uí Rinn, expects the expected.

“They [Waterford] lost the last day to Tipp and you’ll see a rebound effect again. In a tight league, they’ll be targeting Dublin at the weekend to have a go and they’ll be looking at getting two points.

“But we’re looking forward to taking what we’ve learned from the last day into this game. There were some very good aspects of our performance and now the challenge for us is to do it again.”

Five of the Dublin senior panellists – Fergal Whitely, Daire Gray, Conor Burke, Donal Burke and Ciarán Dowling – will feature for DCU against University of Limerick in this evening’s All-Ireland Freshers final at the Mardyke, although all should also feature on Saturday.

Cunningham remains without the services of the strong Cuala contingent until after St Patrick’s Day after they defeated Slaughtneil to set up the All-Ireland club final showdown against Clare and Munster champions Ballyea on March 17th.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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