Brian Cody is the most successful manager in the GAA
Right. Jackie Tyrrell, Take Two. Take One, for the record, prompted the biggest feedback to an offering here since this column started life in late May.
There’s only one topic occupying the minds of hurling folk in Kilkenny at the moment - and it’s not the destination of the county championship.
Also for the record, there was an unmistakeable theme to the feedback: The Warrior’s Code has damaged Kilkenny’s brand. One can’t imagine Brian Cody ever visualised any of his players ending up on national radio expounding on their toughness. One can imagine his horror that it came to pass.
Anyway. Elsewhere in the book Jackie has provided a portrait of Cody, player on manager, never previously furnished. Much of what he says does not surprise.
He has “never felt easy enough” in Cody’s company to relax (not a total shock); their relationship “has always been business” (not even a mild shock); the boss man is “nowhere near as severe in private as his public image suggests”, but at the same time nobody messes with him (the least surprising thing you’ll read this year).
Of course he praises Cody. How could he not?
“One of his greatest achievements is consistently convincing us to play with the mentality of underdogs… The compulsion to win overshadows the sensation of winning… The next game, the next challenge, is all that matters… The process will always be king.”
All bang on the money. But – and this is the thing; there is a “but” where with a more guarded player there wouldn’t have been – a downside exists as well. To wit, Cody is too remote and unapproachable, according to Tyrrell, a view coloured by his experience on the bench in 2015.
“Fellas with bags of All-Ireland medals have sometimes walked away bitter and angry… I don’t even know if Brian recognises the frustration players have often felt. I’m sure he would if he sat down and thought about it but it’s not on his radar at all…” At times, Tyrrell claims, the lack of feedback and encouragement “is crippling”.
This is serious stuff. It is serious precisely because of the identity of the speaker. Here is not some disaffected bit-part panellist from a few years back nursing a petty grievance. Here is a long-standing member of Cody’s Household Guard accusing him of, for want of a better phrase, bad practice.
None of this would matter if Brian Cody were no longer the Kilkenny manager. Nor did it matter when they boasted a team with an All-Star in every position, or close enough. Last week they received two All-Star nominations. We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.
Does Cody need to improve his relationship with his players? Is he willing to acknowledge he has work to do in this regard? Only he can answer those questions. Yet on foot of The Warrior’s Code, such questions have to be raised nonetheless.
While it’s overdoing it to declare that a drought has descended on the county, the water is not flowing as freely as it did a few years ago. And in times of water shortage, every drop must be preserved. Cody cannot rule with a rod of iron any more. He cannot allow anyone to walk away. What was all very well in 2008 will not be all very well in 2018.
Another interesting item revealed by Tyrrell is that it took until 2016 for the Kilkenny players to be fitted with GPS tracking systems. Until 2016. Really.
This is a cause for mild disquiet, given that the GAA world and its mother has been into such tracking devices for years now.
It’s not difficult to detect a particularly Kilkennyish pig-headedness at work here, a kind of passive-aggressiveness, a holier-than-thou stance. “We won All-Irelands without going in for all that new-fangled nonsense, so why should we get on board now?”
It’s not unlike the scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral where poor Duckface tells Hugh Grant that though he shouldn’t be embarking on a relationship thinking, “I must get married”, neither should be embarking on one thinking, “I mustn’t get married.” Kilkenny don’t have to be as tooled and hi-tech as everyone else just for the sake of it. But they can’t stick their noses in the air and march off in the other direction either.
Do you have to like this book? Absolutely not.
Do you have to read it, or at any rate to be properly acquainted with it? Absolutely.