Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, attended the launch of the colleges hurling championship
Interesting the way different papers extract different angles from the same press conference.
Last Thursday’s edition of the Irish Independent had Brian Cody admitting that Kilkenny “didn’t play to the levels we expect” this year, a line the newspaper was sufficiently taken with to splash on the front page.
The Mail had him declaring that Kilkenny were “not in the top four or five teams” in the country.
The Star had him saying he hadn’t read Jackie Tyrrell’s book (a non-story if ever there was one).
The Examiner had him predicting that injuries would play a big part in teams’ fortunes next summer, given the revised championship structure.
As for the Times in Ireland, they had him praising Pat Gilroy, the new Dublin hurling boss, as “a proven manager of teams”.
The press conference in question took place last Wednesday in St Kieran’s College to tie in with the launch of the Top Oil Leinster schools’ senior A hurling championship. Even allowing for the fact that it was mid-November and thus a week in which nothing much was happening, the turnout from the national media was indicative of the extent to which Kilkenny – and perhaps more so their manager – remain box-office. Going above and beyond the call of duty, two of the students were out in the rain, diligently directing visitors to the front hall in the college. I trust they’ll be given an extra 20 per cent in their Christmas exams.
Watching the man himself inside at close quarters was interesting. It was November. It was raining. It was gloomy. He didn’t particularly want to be there. But he did the gig smoothly and efficiently, as well he might after 19 years in the hot seat, and he addressed every ball that was hopped his way and he spoke in full and intelligible sentences.
In short, he fed the beast. And lo, the representatives of the media were pleased that they’d got what they came for, and as soon as the final question had been asked they retired to another room and immediately set about transcribing the quotes.
In case you ever wondered how these things work, which you almost certainly didn’t: the hacks divvy up the various segments of the press conference, with one guy taking the first portion and typing it up, the next guy taking the second portion, and so on. They then email the quotes to one another. By mid-afternoon I had a transcript totalling over 1,600 words lodged in my inbox.
In passing, I asked one of the visitors, a colleague in bygone days, if he’d like to come to lunch before heading back to Dublin. He demurred with regret because he had to have a condensed version of his story from the press conference up on his newspaper’s website as soon as possible. “In the old days,” he mused, “I’d have been able to stay around for the afternoon.”
The game has changed alright, so much so I recently concluded that in a few years’ time almost nobody on the GAA beat with Irish newspapers will be over the age of 45. The grind of fixtures and dull press conferences, combined with the relentlessness of deadlines that never cease, will burn them out.
While there’ll always be a need for farmers, as Liam Keoghan pointed out to me lately, I’m not sure there’ll always be a need for journalists. Given that algorithms have been designed that allow robots to write, are we all that far away from having a robot do a match report? (Yes, I’m perfectly serious.)
The question about the Tyrrell book arrived right at the end of the press conference, incidentally. No surprise there; it’s always advisable to keep one’s powder dry in these situations. To the surprise of absolutely nobody in the room, Cody played the straightest of bats.
He hadn’t read the tome in question. He “doesn’t read the papers either”. He couldn’t expand on whether the book might provide motivational fodder for Tipperary next season because how could he comment on what other people might make of something he hadn’t read.
And thus the press conference ended, not with a bang but with a whimper (albeit not in the eyes of the Star). The writers went off to do their transcribing, Brian Cody went off to do whatever he was doing for the rest of the day and I went home for my lunch.