Brian Cody - no secrets in Kilkenny. It is all down to hard work
You don’t have to be a hurling wizard to make it with Kilkenny. Simply invest in your own talent and buy into the ‘all for one, one for all’ work ethic and you have a chance.
That was the governing doctrine outlined by Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, when a new look team turned early season pessimism on its head as the Cats roared to an 18th Allianz National Hurling League final win at Nowlan Park on Sunday.
“It is not a question of finding lads who can make the ball talk or do something like that,” the James Stephens clubman explained when asked how Kilkenny continued to churn out players imbued with savage spirit.
“It is a question of finding those who are team players; the players who are prepared to work unselfishly for the team and who have good skill. They have to apply themselves then.”
The man who has now helped guide the county to 42 hurling titles said it required ambition to become part of the Kilkenny set-up.
“You have to decide exactly what you want to do with your sporting career,” Cody said when he elaborated. “You can play club hurling; you can play away. Or you can apply yourself completely and say I want to challenge myself to see where I can go in this game, if I can I get to the next level, which is inter-county.
“We know all the players coming up along. They are new players to many, but they are not new to myself and the lads in charge of the team. We have seen them come up through the ranks. We see attitude in them. We see genuineness. We see hunger.
“All teams have spirit. You go nowhere without it. It would be hard to image anyone going into an inter-county dressing-room at 19, 20 or 21 years of age and only giving 90% or 99%. You have to give everything you have.
“That is the reality of the situation,” Cody insisted.
When Kilkenny suffered defeats against Cork and Clare in the opening two rounds of the League, a horrid season was predicted by many commentators. Cody didn’t see things like that, nor did he see a trophy lined route through the season.
“Who would know who would be League winners at that stage,” he said in reference to those matches on January 27 and February 4. “I certainly had no idea. When we lost to Cork and Clare I had confidence in the young players coming through.
“We were blooding new, young players. Those making the early judgement about them wouldn’t know an awful lot about these players.
“They are decent players. We have a long way to go, obviously. What happened today was very good but the championship starts shortly. Everything will be different then.”
When it was suggested to him that people would now look afresh at Kilkenny, he wasn’t particularly interested.
“With all due respect to everyone, it doesn’t bother me what people think of us,” he shot back. “We look after the thing ourselves in our own place. Everyone has an opinion. The great thing about opinion is that it can change from day to day.
“However, our opinion is tested in matches and we have to be able to deliver on it. It doesn’t really matter what people think. Pundits predict and so on. If they are wrong it doesn’t matter.
“But if we get things wrong the team can be beaten. Look, we won today, but there is a helluva lot of hurling to be played before the end of the year.
“I knew we would be competitive in the League, even after we were beaten in the opening two matches. We had fierce hard matches coming up. We had to go to Waterford. Tipperary and Wexford were coming here.
“We had to stay alive in the thing first. We did that with terrific application. Then we scored a very good quarter-final win over Offaly. Again last Sunday in Wexford Park we had to deliver. We were tested every single day we went out.
“Did I know we were going to pass all those tests? I didn’t. I knew we would be very, very competitive and we would be hard to beat. We are getting better all the time.
“Have we to improve further before the first game in the Leinster championship? Certainly. We need to improve a lot.”
Cody, who rarely singles out individuals for special praise, lauded the efforts of 2015 Hurler of the Year, T.J. Reid for his leadership within the current group. He said the Ballyhale Shamrocks man was an outstanding player, and he was living up to that billing.
“T.J. has been really consistent for us,” the manager said. “T.J. is on the team a long time now. He is an outstanding hurler. That is the level he is at.
“He has to be the player he is capable of being, not just a player who is ticking over, scoring maybe four or five points in games. His application has been terrific. His fitness level is huge as well. He is reaping the benefits of the work he is putting into his game.”
Cody said Kilkenny were delighted to win the final. He felt Tipperary were probably the better team during the first half, but they were backed by a decent wind then.
“Then we got off to a terrific start to the second half,” he beamed. “Walter (Walsh) scored a great goal. The most satisfying thing overall for us was the attitude of the players. It was top class. Everyone who came in did well.
“At the start if every League I would say we would love to win it, and on top of that to get as much game time as possible into new lads. It worked out well on both counts for us. We have seen an awful lot of players and we have a decent depth to our panel now.”
When question he said he hoped to have former Hurler of the Year, Richie Hogan back for the Leinster championship, which started with an away match against Dublin in Parnell Park on May 13. There was no guarantee, but.....
Cody explained the Danesfort clubman has a medical condition; an issue with his back. The injury definitely wasn’t sorted yet and everyone was working to help the player recover full fitness.
He said he also hoped to have Colin Fennelly and Paul Murphy, who are on peace keeping duties in South Lebanon, back for the championship.