Breheny: Kilkenny 2000 v 2014 - how the old Cats compare to the new breed
Fourteen years ago, Kilkenny won their first All-Ireland title under Brian Cody. On Sunday, they go for a 10th under their legendary manager. Martin Breheny assesses how the 2000 Cats vintage compares with the class of 2014
It started in 2000 when the Brian Cody reign delivered its first All-Ireland title. Fourteen years on, they are seeking a tenth crown of the new Millennium, a dominance never previously experienced in the hurling championship.
Cody and Henry Shefflin, who started out as manager and player in 1999, are still aboard as the record-breaking carousel rolls towards Croke Park to take on Tipperary.
Kilkenny's win over Offaly in the 2000 final ended a seven-year wait for the title and was achieved with a squad that had endured several disappointments over recent seasons.
The current group have had some setbacks but it has been far outweighed by incredibly good times.
Question is: if Kilkenny 2000 lined up against Kilkenny 2014, where would the advantage lie?
Here's a head-to-head between the starting 15 in the 2000 All-Ireland final and the team that started against Limerick in last month's semi-final.
1. James McGarry v David Herity
Despite winning six All-Ireland medals, McGarry received no All Star award, which is still a sore point in Kilkenny. He conceded only three goals in six All-Ireland finals, keeping clean sheets in 1999-2002-2004. Ironically, Kilkenny lost in 1999 and 2004.
Herity, who was first choice in 2011-12, has held his place after coming in for the injured Eoin Murphy this summer. He would not have displaced McGarry if they were contemporaries.
2. Michael Kavanagh v Paul Murphy
Murphy is still only a 25-year-old and likely to be around for several more years. Like Kavanagh, he started in the half-back line but is now one of the top corner-men. Kavanagh's consistency over such a long period was phenomenal, right up to his last All-Ireland final appearance in 2009, when he played a huge role in setting up the second goal late on at a time when Kilkenny were a point ahead.
3. Noel Hickey v JJ Delaney
How do you choose between two superb defenders? Hickey was in the very early stages of his career in 2000 before going on to become a truly outstanding full-back, who could happily play in the corner either.
Delaney switched in from the half-back line in 2006 and, apart from 2007, has been there since. He remains as formidable as ever.
4. Willie O'Connor v Jackie Tyrrell
"If I was to select one man to lead a team into war, it would be Willie. He had an unbelievably competitive spirit." - DJ Carey.
"Jackie is a feared figure among the opposition. His consistency is unbelievable." - DJ Carey.
DJ got around the difficulty of separating them by naming Tyrrell at No 4 and O'Connor at No 5 on the best Kilkenny team he played with. We can't do that here!
5. Philip Larkin v Joey Holden
Holden (24) is in his first season on the championship team and is still learning the trade in the company of very experienced and demanding teachers. Larkin was in his prime and proudly maintaining the traditions of a famous hurling family in 2000.
6. Eamonn Kennedy v Brian Hogan
Brian Cody ignored the conventional wisdom around Kilkenny that Kennedy wouldn't make it at the highest level, a view that was proven to be correct when the Dunnamaggin man enjoyed a great season in 2000, crowned with an All-Ireland win and an All Star award. However, he didn't maintain that level and lost out after 2001.
Hogan has been one of the great centre-backs and, even now at the age of 33, has few, if indeed any, equals.
His absence for the 2010 All-Ireland final clash with Tipperary attracted little attention because of Shefflin's injured knee saga but it was hugely significant on a day when Kilkenny's central defence was suspect.
7. Peter Barry v Cillian Buckley
Barry was coming into his prime in 2000, whereas Buckley is only just past his 22nd birthday, having made his championship debut two years ago. Barring injury, his best days are ahead of him. Barry was a top-class wing-back around the turn of the Millennium, before moving to the centre in 2002.
8. Andy Comerford v Richie Hogan
They are different types. Comerford was more of a traditional midfielder, using his strength and physicality to exert a powerful influence in the middle third. As well as being hugely effective at midfield, Hogan can play in any of the six forward positions. He is 4/5 favourite to win the Hurler of the Year award.
9. Brian McEvoy v Conor Fogarty
McEvoy spent much of his career as a wing-forward but played at midfield in the 2000 championship.
He was better suited as an out-and-out attacker, using his pace along either wing. Fogarty (24) is still settling in at midfield, having previously played in defence. He has taken well to his new surroundings.
10. Denis Byrne v Padraig Walsh
Byrne scored 0-8 against Galway and 0-4 against Offaly in the 2000 All-Ireland semi-final and final and he later crowned a fine year with an All Star award. He was also effective at midfield but Walsh is more versatile, equally comfortable in the half-backs/midfield or half-forwards. It's an impressive package. Still learning the senior trade, Walsh's best days are ahead.
11. John Power v Michael Fennelly
Like Hickey v Delaney at full-back, this pair are very difficult to separate.
"John couldn't care less if he never scored. Everything was for the team. The most unselfish player you ever came across," was DJ Carey's description of Power.
"When he is at peak fitness and his game is right, he is unstoppable" - Carey on Fennelly.
Fennelly's greater versatility earns him the nod.
12. John Hoyne v TJ Reid
Hoyne was in his first season in 2000, launching a Kilkenny career which lasted five years. Reid is third favourite (8/1) behind Richie Hogan and Seamus Callanan for the Hurler of the Year award.
13. Charlie Carter v Colin Fennelly
A regular on the team for many seasons, Carter was in his prime in 2000, scoring a total of 4-11 from open play in four championship games. He scored 0-14 from play in 2001, before dropping to the subs' bench for much of the 2002 championship. He left the panel during the 2003 championship. Fennelly, who turned 25 last month, has several seasons left to build on an already impressive portfolio. He is Kilkenny's top scorer (2-16) from open play this season.
14. DJ Carey v Mark Kelly
With the exception of Henry Shefflin, whoever was up against Carey would lose out.
15. Henry Shefflin v Eoin Larkin
The interesting thing here is that both could start next Sunday. Larkin definitely will and Shefflin is challenging hard but will he be held in reserve for the big impact introduction which would lift Kilkenny and worry Tipp? That he is still going so well 15 years after making his debut says it all about his talent, durability and ambition.