Brian Cody wary of Déise's emerging threat and revolutionary style
Published 04/08/2015 | 02:30
The more things change, the more they stay the same?
Brian Cody is fielding questions from the assembled media ahead of Kilkenny's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Waterford on Sunday.
Inevitably, talk turns to the style of hurling Derek McGrath's Déise side are employing and whether the game is in a new and different place.
The questions draw a wry smile. Between his playing and management days, Cody's experience runs deep. He goes back 10 years when the Cats were duelling with Cork for supremacy.
That Rebels team had their own way of doing things, he points out. And while he agrees there's more work to be done in analysing opponents these days, Waterford are simply bringing their own slant on it.
"Ten years ago it was what, 2005 or so? Cork were playing a particular brand of hurling too even then," the Kilkenny manager recalls. "Different years turn up different challenges and that's understandable.
"Waterford are obviously intent on getting their own game right. At the end of the day, everyone's first option is on getting their own game right.
"But then you'd be very, very silly not to consider what the opposition are doing as well.
"Of course we're doing that and we will do that, but we only knew from last week who we were playing."
Waterford's style has attracted plenty of commentary. Comparisons with the Donegal footballers were likely not meant as a compliment.
For Cody, many people are missing the point. Their set-up is one thing, but he points out that everything they do is underpinned by a high skill level.
Many of their young tyros have come through successful underage teams at county and colleges level. In fact, a few years ago Cody addressed a group of students from De La Salle college at McGrath's request.
"I think they've tremendous skill, right throughout the team, from the goalkeeper right throughout to the corner-forwards, plus their subs coming on - younger lads coming on.
"And I've seen that skill developing over the last few years with them, not that they haven't always had skill, they've had terrific hurlers over the years but I think this particular group of hurlers are very, very skilful.
"They have terrific experience there, they have Michael 'Brick' Walsh, Kevin Moran, Noel Connors - these lads who have massive experience.
"They have great athleticism and pace so they have a huge amount going for them
"And they're playing the particular way they're playing, but they're capable of tweaking it at any stage as well.
"So they're not even remotely playing as a team that's playing in one particular way.
"They're being labelled as being very, very defensive, setting up with sweepers or whatever it is, but they're getting huge scores."
Whatever stylistic trend comes around, Cody maintains that the basics of hurling remain in place.
The core tenets that underpin any successful side are the same characteristics that all winning teams have.
And he believes Waterford have all the required attributes to be successful.
"I don't look at them as just being a sweeper team at all. And the lad who was playing mostly as a sweeper, Tadhg de Búrca, is an exceptionally talented hurler as far as I can see.
"They have the ability to defend, the ability to attack, they work very, very hard, outstanding on breaking ball, all that kind of work.
"They do the basics very, very well and they attack from all over the field and they play with great freedom as well, you can see them shooting for points from everywhere.
"And that's because they have this belief in themselves and they have the players who can do that as well.
"So can they win the All-Ireland? There's no doubt about it that they could win the All-Ireland. Absolutely certain.
"Could they win the National League?
"It was proven that they could win the National League already, so they're one of the four teams now and have as much of a chance as the other three of winning the All-Ireland right now."