Sunday 25 September 2016

Brian Cody shrugs off latest landmark as he hails 'magnificent attitude'

Published 06/07/2015 | 02:30

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody chats with Richie Hogan after his team’s victory against Galway
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody chats with Richie Hogan after his team’s victory against Galway

The great man was typically impassive. A 39th trophy for Brian Cody was met with the usual response. He wouldn't be drawn on personal achievements, particularly when there's more work to be done.

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Only that which is coming down the line matters, nothing else.

His side played with a ruthlessness that would have pleased him.

Even when Joe Canning pulled a goal down from the heavens, they were unmoved. Canning managed both a balletic act and a gymnastic feat to gather Andy Smith's centre.

Brian Cody, Kilkenny manager, celebrates at the end of the game
Brian Cody, Kilkenny manager, celebrates at the end of the game

From there he lashed to the net for goal that will adorn even his highlight reel. While the rest of the stadium was digesting what they had just seen, Kilkenny simply went back to work and tagged on another point before the break to give them a three-point cushion.

They'd be hit hard on the restart too. There was hardly a minute gone in the second half when Galway struck again. Jason Flynn's brilliant strike brought the sides level after a mix-up in the Kilkenny defence.

In the past, Galway teams have made life difficult for Cody's side but the Cats simply upped the levels and hit 11 second-half points. A mix of the old in Eoin Larkin and new in Ger Aylward saw them home. There was to be no repeat of the 2012 Leinster decider.

"It's certainly a bonus to have players like that on the field, there's no doubt about that," said the Kilkenny boss afterwards.

"But there were also players who don't have that kind of experience, and they also did very well.

"It's about everybody driving forward and doing things well, doing things for the team, and that happened.

"I'm very happy we won it. We had a great challenge - both teams had - and our attitude was very good at all times.

"We were hit by a goal before half-time, having built up a bit of a lead, and then after half-time we were rocked back by another goal.

A 39th trophy for Brian Cody was met with the usual response
A 39th trophy for Brian Cody was met with the usual response

"Those are serious times to be conceding goals, but our reaction and our attitude was magnificent."

Mick Fennelly's enforced absence through illness forced a reshuffle just before the throw-in but it seemed to take little from Kilkenny.

Walter Walsh shifted to centre field and John Power was drafted in. Joey Holden's apprenticeship at full-back continued too. The Ballyhale man has been charged with plenty of responsibility this year, filling JJ Delaney's shoes, and yesterday he shadowed Canning for most of the afternoon.

He might have been rattled by Canning's magic but stuck to his task. The Portumna man didn't manage his first point from play until the 60th minute.

Read more: Five things we learned from Kilkenny's win over Galway

Kilkenny duo Richie Hogan, left, and Richie Power in action against Daithí Burke and Iarla Tannian during their victory over Galway
Kilkenny duo Richie Hogan, left, and Richie Power in action against Daithí Burke and Iarla Tannian during their victory over Galway

"Joe's an outstanding hurler, he got a great goal, but I thought Joey Holden (below) had a great game for us at full-back," Cody said.

"Every day you go out and take on these top-class hurlers from other counties, the same way they're doing against us. It's a challenge, because in a split second those players can score, but it's not just an individual thing, it's a team thing. That's what we try to do.

"(Joey's) got a good attitude, a good approach to the game. He's developing well though he's only on the panel a short-time. His run to the All-Ireland club final has helped him bed into the position, but the challenge is to do it every single day.

"We have options in various players to do whatever job has to be done on a particular day, or at least we think we have, and we go with what we think."

Afterwards, Galway manager Anthony Cunningham's glass was half-full. His side had flown at Kilkenny's altitude for parts of the afternoon, enough to encourage their manager that theirs could be a long summer.

"We've a lot to build on," he said. "We know these guys are hurling at the top of their game. With a bit of sharpening up, we'll be a match for anybody.

"There's very little difference, the same as last year against Kilkenny. It's all about how much you improve and drive on from today. That's in everybody's hands to take that on board.

"We'd be pushing hard for the Galway supporters to come out and drive this team on as there is something to build on - you know, the performance of Padraig Mannion there, John Hanbury, new players coming into the team at a very top level. They're a fantastic team coming on."

"Overall there was very little in it with a few chances we were unlucky not to take. I thought our backs did very well for very long spells of the game."

Cunningham was left to rue some missed opportunities.

"Kilkenny are a class act. Everyone knows that. They are All-Ireland champions but we are very, very close to them. Disappointed we didn't finish out a few chances but that happens," he said.

"We missed some soft points, probably didn't get a couple of frees we thought we should have got, just the momentum swung at really critical times. That will always happen in Championship matches at Championship pace. There was very little between us there."

Cunningham left the media room expressing a desire to turn the results of 2012 - when Galway beat Kilkenny in the Leinster final only to lose the All-Ireland decider - on its head. They'll be back in business on July 26 and Cunningham believes his side are a better outfit than they were three years ago.

"A whack of new players have bedded in very well - the Mannions, Daithi (Burke), all these players up front. It's Jason Flynn's second season. Even the guys a bit disappointed with their performances today are huge contributors to us."

Kilkenny will go away for five weeks now. A round of club matches will be played before they regroup.

By that stage, it's likely that both Fennelly and Richie Power will be back for the Cats for the third step in what could be a four-game summer for them.

Cody's Kilkenny are shaping up nicely to what could be an incredible 40th title.

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