According to his biographer Martin Breheny, what you see is what you get with Kilkenny senior hurling manager Brian Cody. “He doesn’t do secrets, there’s nothing arcane about his recipe for success.”
Say hello to Martin Breheny, recently retired as Gaelic games correspondent of the Irish Independent.
Breheny is a man of strong opinions who’s never been shy about expressing them. (Believe me, I know. I’ve sat around the All-Stars selection committee table with him for the past 20 years.) Let’s throw him the sliotar and see where he takes it, shall we?
He learned his trade in the old school, in this case the Tuam Herald, where among his contemporaries were Michael Lyster, Jim Carney and a couple of future national editors.
He covered county council meetings and the courts as well as sport under the guidance of Jarlath Burke, a proprietor-editor who had no hesitation in throwing a story back at his proteges for a rewrite if he deemed it not to be up to scratch.
It was a wonderful grounding in the basics, the kind of grounding that no longer exists in journalism. “The story was everything. The way it was written was everything.”
Do today’s emerging journalists receive this kind of training in college? Breheny doubts it.
Moving to Dublin and the Irish Press in 1979 brought him into daily contact with the GAA, an organisation much less professional then than now. On the other hand, the job was easier in the days before the tyranny of the 24-hour news cycle.
“Stories were available. People would talk to you then. You were carrying news that people didn’t have. There was no Twitter with teams up a minute after they were announced. Nowadays everybody is keeping everything under control. The better the technology became, the harder the job became.”
He enjoyed Gaelic football an awful lot more back then. He much prefers hurling, even if he doesn’t like the decline in the goalscoring rate and objects to matches “being won from 100 yards’ range as they are now” (ie with points).
Best All-Ireland football final he covered? He hopes he won’t be accused of self-indulgence when he says he has a special place in his heart for the 1998 decider, his native Galway triumphing for the first time in 32 years.
“And a really good football match too.”
Best All-Ireland hurling final he covered? Easy: 2009 and Kilkenny’s four in a row. Although Martin Comerford hit the clinching goal, Breheny is unsure if Michael Kavanagh has received quite the credit he deserved for his part in the buildup.
“How he kept his hand – and the ball – in while his legs went out over the sideline I’m still not sure. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in hurling.”
Obvious question. His interaction with Brian Cody. “Very straightforward to deal with. Very professional. It was easy to see why he’s been so successful with Kilkenny. Get the basics right and keep them right.”
He raises the subject of Cody’s biography, which he ghosted, without having to be prompted. It was criticised for being bland and uninformative and not revealing secrets; Breheny’s counter-argument is that Cody doesn’t do secrets, that there’s nothing arcane about his recipe for success and that in this instance what you see is very much what you get.
“People criticised it for not showing the Brian Cody they thought existed. But they were trying to impose their own view of him. The Brian Cody in the book is him.”
Is he on Twitter? Not in the least. “I’m trying to sell papers!”
Martin Breheny. Old-school to the last and still standing.