Brian Cody: Kilkenny are not a defensive side, absolutely not
Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30
As is Brian Cody's wont, he refuses to be drawn on events in other counties and debates on championship and league structures. Kilkenny is always number one and it has proved a winning recipe for him.
When others are getting tangled in tactics, systems and game-plans, the Cats boss enforces a simplistic approach - get their own house in order, provide the perfect platform for success and everything else will look after itself.
Since Cody took the reins in winter 1998, an unprecedented trail of silverware has followed and despite various approaches being developed to take them down, Kilkenny have always adapted, and gradually overcome.
The James Stephens clubman places huge emphasis on developing hurlers with intellect, players who stand tall when the heat comes on, capable of logically dealing with everything thrown at them.
"It's a question of our team competing against the other team. It's not about personalities. I think you have to be adaptable, I think that experience or that level of intelligence needs to be in a team to deal with it," Cody says.
"The reality of it is you don't get communication from the sideline easily on match day and we've come up against it before and our players are adaptable I suppose. The challenge is there all the time to play the game that's best suited for the day.
"It will always be won on the pitch. We don't prepare in training against any other manager or any other thing like that. We prepare ourselves and then the players go out and compete against the other team. That's what will happen again this year."
Their ability to compete effectively, regardless of circumstances, is the envy of many hurling coaches and Cody scoffs at the notion of being labelled as defensive, citing club-mate Eoin Larkin, currently on peace-keeping duty in Syria until April, as a prime example of their relentless style.
"People speak about us maybe being very, very defensive. Absolutely not defensive in that sense. We'd be an attacking team as I would see it," the 61-year-old says staunchly. "Eoin has an insatiable work ethic.
"He's an impatient player. He's not a fella that you can say, 'Right, play corner-forward'. He'd play it no problem, he'd play anywhere, he just wants the ball and that's not defensive, that's just a sense of where am I needed.
"That's Eoin's sense of how to play the game and lots of other lads as well. The reality of it is there is a lot of flexibility now in positions, that's for certain, but it's a different thing to an orthodox, say, sweeper set-up.
"Certainly it's not a situation where you have 15 players who just keep to their own positions, that's not happening for certain, but you'd always like to think we have a really attacking sense."
Cody is the one constant during the annual managerial merry-go-round and the all-conquering Cats boss sets out on his 18th season patrolling the touchline against last year's league champions Waterford on Sunday.
The game has changed remarkably since the turn of the millennium but his values, and what it takes to don the black and amber, certainly haven't. Nor do they show any signs of dropping standards as they set their sights on another three-in-a-row.