Brian Cody: Kilkenny have always been adaptable
‘More tactical’ game holds no fears for Cats boss as he attends championship launch
Wexford selector Seoirse Bulfin, Offaly manager Kevin Martin, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, Galway manager Mícheál Donoghue and Dublin coach Anthony Cunningham at McKee Barracks in Cabra, Dublin. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger joked at yesterday’s launch of the provincial hurling championship that McKee Barracks in Cabra was a fitting host venue.
A couple of tanks rolled around outside and the barrels of two pieces of heavy artillery poked out from beneath tarpaulin nearby. Yet, as the Carlow official wisecracked, there were some big guns sitting in front of him too.
All-Ireland-winning Galway manager Micheál Donoghue and Dublin coach Anthony Cunningham attended the event though it was Brian Cody who was surely foremost in Bolger’s mind.
Even the 11-time All-Ireland-winning manager has had his critics and some felt the modern game and counterattacking strategies were passing Cody by as his Kilkenny team floundered in 2017.
“I think people might think I am a bit stale as a coach for some reason, because of the way the game is going,” quipped Cody at one stage.
The most successful manager of them all appears to have been a little put out by commentary over the last 18 months, regarding his tactics in particular.
Back in February, Waterford legend Tony Browne wondered in a national newspaper if his eyes were deceiving him. “Had I just witnessed Kilkenny playing a short ball possession game?” gasped Browne.
“Sure look it, it’s like as if we weren’t able to play hurling before or something, that we were playing a game that was kind of different altogether,” said Cody, dismissing talk of major change.
“Like I mean, we’ve had very, very good players over the years and our players have never been sent out to rigidly stick to a particular way of playing the game.
“You prepare and you talk about it and you look at opposition and everything else but then you send the players out and you trust them to play the game that’s taking place in front of them.
“Over the years, they’ve always had to adopt certain ways for certain games, and use certain tactics for other teams.
“The game has become more tactical now and there are more teams putting different challenges in front of us compared to what it would have been a few years ago.
“So therefore there has been a more obvious tweaking of things now to deal with the game that’s taking place in front of your eyes.
“But, again, there’s no master plan coming through from team management or anything like that because you go out one day and you’re playing what would have been considered an orthodox game, if you like, and the next day could be against a team who employ different tactics. The players understand that.”
Kilkenny’s surprise Allianz League title success earlier this month proved that they, and Cody, remain as relevant as ever.
And the comments of Cody the morning after the 2016 All-Ireland hurling final loss to Tipperary when he promised that ‘there are players on our panel who haven’t been seen yet who will be top players – and quickly’ have been proven spot on.
The process of bedding in those rookies began last year and, though 2017 turned out to be the worst since Cody took over, it seems to have been worth sacrificing a season.
Paddy Deegan, Conor Delaney, Enda Morrissey, Richie Leahy, Martin Keoghan and Alan Murphy, all relative unknowns two years ago, started the league final win over Tipp and Cody, of course, wasn’t surprised.
“No, it didn’t surprise me because I would have seen them a lot since they were at primary school really and they are all good players,” he said.
“You give lads an opportunity and some players grab it quickly, some players take a bit longer to come through and that’s the way it always has been.
“It’s the same with the lads coming through now. And all they have been doing is dipping their feet in the water, it’s going to ramp up several notches now. There is a huge challenge facing us.”
Kilkenny open their campaign against Dublin at Parnell Park in the first round of the new-look Leinster championship on May 13th. Cody said both Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly are back from army duty and in training, as is Richie Hogan after long-term back trouble.
“It’s early stages and there are no guarantees but we’re hopeful,” said Cody of Hogan.