Eddie Keher says criticism of Brian Cody “strange, very strange”
Kilkenny legend says manager’s achievements will never be repeated in any county
Brian Cody: “As far as we’re concerned, Brian Cody will always be up there. No matter what happens from here on,” says Eddie Keher. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s famous defence of his art – criticism passes, good work remains – is now directly applicable to Kilkenny hurling.
Despite their still mixed start to 2017, everyone knows Brian Cody will not be judged on this season alone. Nor indeed its immediate surrounds.
At least everyone in Kilkenny that is; but certain critics from outside the county reckon Cody has already stayed on too long, is somehow not the manager he used to be, and Sunday’s potential relegation play-off decider against Dublin at Parnell Park is just one reflection of that.
Kilkenny’s six-time All-Ireland winner Eddie Keher describes it all as “strange, very strange”, knowing full well how the good work is ultimately separated from the criticism.
Keher after all is the player whose 19-year career was bookended by defeat. He was still a minor when featuring in the 1959 All-Ireland final replay loss to Waterford and retired after the 1977 Leinster final loss to Wexford.
Not many people remember Keher for that, but rather his six All-Irelands, 10 Leinster titles, six All Stars, 1972 Hurler of the Year award, and corner forward on the Hurling Team of the Century in 1984, and the Hurling Team of the Millennium in 2000.
“How anyone could criticise Brian Cody for what he’s achieved, and being criticised by people who haven’t had anything near like the success he’s had over the years, is extraordinary,” says Keher, speaking ahead of Sunday’s game where a Kilkenny win could yet put them into the quarter-finals.
“I suppose that’s a fact of life, but there’s no one better to take the criticism anyway. With politics and everything, people are pulling the trigger early. I think we always had that sort of thing in Ireland. I’m afraid the unsuccessful people are waiting to get the successful people, wait for their downfall.
Keher is not afraid to be critical, however and sees a few faults in the current Kilkenny team which have nothing to do with Cody.
“We were delighted with the performance against Tipp. Tipp and Kilkenny, I suppose, bring the best out of each other. But I don’t think it’s a true mirror of the form, and obviously we need to beat Dublin on Sunday if we’re to go anywhere in the league.
“That’s a big ask. I think the team is lacking in depth. We also have a lot of injuries. But if the team that played against Tipp can take the field I’d say we’ll have a reasonable chance anyway.
“We were also disappointed in our own display that day against Clare, who were exceptionally good on the day. I suppose it hurts a bit when people start writing you off just on one game.
“The league has been such anyway, some extraordinary results, us beating Cork, Cork beating Waterford, everyone is beating each other. I don’t think any results really give a true reflection of things. That won’t become apparent until the quarter-finals and finals of the league.”
On closer inspection, says Keher, the team does have potential, despite the still conspicuous retirements of recent years.
“I’d say he’s getting close to the team now, maybe there’s a little bit of tweaking left yet, as there’s a few injured players to come back soon.
“When you look back at the great players we’ve lost; Henry, DJ, Eddie Brennan, Martin Comerford, but things move on and we still have great players coming. I think Padraig Walsh is an excellent choice at full back.
“I’m not sure about the centre-back position yet, it’ll take a few games yet. Young Jason Cleere, Kieran Joyce, might be back there, I’m not sure. But he’s getting there. I think he’s hopefully sorted out the full back line and the halfback line is nearly there. I think centrefield, we’ll be hoping that Michael Fennelly will be back in that picture, but what they played against Tipp, the two lads, Cillian Buckley and young Paddy Deegan, he looks very promising as well, so they’ll be good.
“If they’re all back there’ll be a good struggle for places. In the forwards, you hopefully have Ger Aylward coming back and a couple of more lads, Kevin Kelly, who has been injured, so things going our way they’ll be strong enough this year I think.”