The news from Kilkenny last week aroused great interest again, almost as if it were unexpected and surprising. Hardly!
And here’s another bit of news that won’t surpise - the Cats will be going all out to regain the All-Ireland senior hurling championship in 2014.
The most successful manager in the history of the GAA, Brian Cody, is to remain on for what will be a 16th season in charge of the senior hurling team. He is nine All-Ireland titles not out! Selector and team trainer for nearly a decade now, Michael Dempsey (St Joseph’s) is to remain on too.
However, Martin Fogarty, the third member of the Selection Committee that plotted the last six All-Ireland victories, including the four in-a-row between 2006 and 2009 inclusive, has decided to step down. There was talk 12 months ago that the Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) man might not want to continue for too long more, so in a way the shock was taken out of that particular announcement.
If there was surprise it was the taking on board of James McGarry (Bennettsbridge) and Derek Lyng (Emeralds) as selectors, if for no other reason than no one had an idea who might be added to the ticket.
But when the most successful manager in the game comes calling, and you know the best trainer around is on board too, then it is all but impossible to say no to an offer to join the Kilkenny set-up. It is fair to suggest it didn’t take James McGarry or Derek Lyng too long to make up their minds to get involved.
The chance of a lifetime, and all that.
There has been plenty of talk and suggestion about where Kilkenny currently stand in the hurling order following their defeat by Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final, and the subsequent happenings in the championship. Some of the talk has been foolhardy, almost suggesting that the game was in a better place because Kilkenny were out of the picture.
We would all agree it is good to have new faces and new teams around and battling for the MacCarthy Cup, and Sam Maguire too, but the suggestions that Kilkenny might be heading into a valley period might be wide of the mark.
No one will deny that there is a team building job to be done in Kilkenny between now and championship 2014. But what’s new?
The manager in Kilkenny never gets more than a one year term, Brian Cody included, although he would get longer if he asked for it. The James Stephens man has never requested anything different. He has always made the point that you don’t think about building a team to win the All-Ireland in two, three or four years time.
The goal is to do it every year. If you can do it, great. If you can’t, you plan for 12 months down the line. I well remember when Cody took over the job in 1999 he made that point in one of his first interviews. He has never deviated from that belief.
In Kilkenny the belief is everywhere. The County Board definitely considers the possibility, because at the beginning of each year it plans the master fixtures programme from the All-Ireland final date back to April when the local leagues start.
It is not arrogance. It is a way of life; dealing with hopes, expectations and belief if you like.
Kilkenny, remember, won the National League final this season, and in great style too. It was a season scarred by injuries to key players like Henry Shefflin, T.J. Reid, Michael Rice, Michel Fennelly et al.
How much the performance of the team suffered from those setbacks is hard to quantify, but you can bet the tale of woe will be used as a huge motivating factor in the future. Sure, some of the players have been around a long time and have a lot of miles on the clock, but the experience of being ‘on the outside looking in’ during the wind up of the championship has left them with that longing feeling.
James McGarry and Derek Lyng have been working with the Development Squads, which are used as a training ground for would be county selectors of the future. They have made the step up. We wish them all well!