Brian Cody hails JJ Delaney as best defender he’s ever seen

Kilkenny manager admits Delaney’s decision to quit took him by surprise

 Brian Cody celebrates with JJ Delaney after Kilkenny beat Tipperary in the All-Ireland final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Brian Cody celebrates with JJ Delaney after Kilkenny beat Tipperary in the All-Ireland final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 
Brian CodyKilkenny

And yet Cody – who lost five players to retirement last season, with 38 All-Ireland medals between them – made no effort to convince Delaney or anyone else to stay on: the same will go for Henry Shefflin, who is still undecided about his intercounty future.

“No, I never reason with them, because they have reasoned it out in their own head,” says Cody. “So I wouldn’t try to change their mind, because they have obviously agonised over that decision.”

Cody was speaking ahead of Saturday’s Allianz League opener against Cork, where he will look win a ninth title, in this his 17th season as Kilkenny manager. Yet Delaney’s retirement – more so than Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, David Herity and Aidan Fogarty – caught him by surprise.

“JJ rang me a couple of days before, so I was aware of it. But yeah, I was surprised a bit. But not massively either. I don’t tend to be shocked too easily, to be honest. You never know what players will decide. He was on top of his game, that’s the way he decided it, and that’s it. But I think everybody feels there is more in JJ. But again, that’s only for JJ to decide.”

And he finished, says Cody, not just as a nine-time All-Ireland winner, but still the best defender in the game: “When JJ was injured for the 2006 All-Ireland final, and we weren’t going to be able to play him, I said at the time that I had never seen a better defender. I haven’t seen anything to change my mind since.”

Meanwhile, only time will tell whether or not Shefflin will continue in his quest to win an 11th All-Ireland, as his focus stays with Ballyhale Shamrocks until St Patrick’s Day: “I wouldn’t even speculate at all on Henry’s intentions,” says Cody. “But he is in a fortunate position in that he can decide himself, and is not in a situation where he is being forced out of the game through injury or anything else.”

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