Sunday 25 June 2017

Cats' managers live in the shadow of Cody

Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

For over 12 years Brian Cody has been at the helm of the Kilkenny hurlers, the second-longest serving manager in their history after Fr Tommy Maher and the longest serving of the current crop of inter-county managers.

But there is a flip-side to such a lengthy and successful tenure. Many of Kilkenny's next generation of managers have had to venture to outside counties to get their shot at inter-county management.

Most recently, Laois called on Brendan Fennelly. A member of the famous Kilkenny hurling dynasty, he got involved in team management immediately after his playing career ended in 1994, when he formed part of the backroom set-up of his county's All-Ireland winning under 21 team.

With Dunnamaggin, Fennelly was involved in management roles across the board during the club's most successful period when they won three minor county titles, three under 21 titles and in four years went from junior champions to senior champions.

When Carlow came calling, Fennelly got his first taste of senior inter-county management. A year later, his side gained promotion to the top tier of the league but a restructuring meant they were denied the chance to play in Division 1.

And Fennelly was part of the backroom team that led De La Salle to Waterford and Munster titles in 2008 en route to the '09 All-Ireland club final, where they lost to Portumna. From there he went on to manage Kilkenny club Carrickshock before he was lured to Laois.

His brother Kevin preceded Cody at Kilkenny and then completed a two-year stint with the Dublin hurlers. In 2001, Carlow once again called on the expertise of a former Kilkenny hurler to manage their senior team, this time they picked Michael Walsh to fill the role. Walsh spent a brief period there, and he is the current boss of the under 21 hurlers. They beat Tipperary in 2008 earning Walsh his first All-Ireland title as a manager.

Andy Comerford was also tempted into inter-county management. In 2007, he was snapped up by Kildare to manage their hurlers. During his three-year tenure he successfully guided them into Division 2 of the league.

As long as Kilkenny stay on top and churn out quality players they will always be in demand in managerial roles. But for the time being, those opportunities will be limited in their homeland as Cody continues to oversee an incredible dynasty.

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