'I'd prefer to be functional than dysfunctional' - Brian Cody hits back at Ger Loughnane's Kilkenny barbs
The Kilkenny hurlers are in familiar territory entering this year's championship as they attempt to achieve a three in-a-row for the fourth time under Brian Cody but the current crop of Cats aren't as universally lauded as the teams that have gone before them.
Kilkenny's four in-a-row side blitzed all before them between 2006 and 2009 but despite winning back-to-back All-Ireland titles, the greatness of Cody's side has been questioned by some pundits, most notably when Ger Loughnane called them a 'functional' team and adding that he had no idea how they were going for three successive Liam McCarthy Cups.
The comments caused a bit of a stir in the GAA world but predictably, 11-time All-Ireland winning manager Brian Cody paid little attention to the incendiary remarks.
"Ger is a gas man," Cody told Independent.ie at the launch of the 2016 Leinster Championship.
"Ger throws out these things every so often. To be honest I don't even read these things. I've known Ger for a long time and he will always throw out things that are controversial. I think he said we are a functional team. That's not a bad thing to be. I'd prefer to be functional than dysfunctional."
Kilkenny are a famously focused bunch of players, but interestingly, star forward Colin Fennelly admitted that Loughnane's comments had bothered him, saying that the ex-Clare manager's declarations were 'werid' and 'crazy'.
So will this be something that the team use as added motivation on their quest to complete a three in-a-row?
"To be honest it hasn't even been mentioned," Cody said.
"I haven't heard one word about it in the dressing room or around the team."
"It's irrelevant," he added, when asked about Loughnane comparing his current side to the four in-a-row winners.
"You don't have to compare anybody to anybody. The All-Ireland is up for grabs every year, that is the way it always has been."
Loughnane has previously stated that he feels Davy Fitzgerald's Clare side should better the achievements of his double All-Ireland winning team and the Banner will likely have to go through Brian Cody's side if they want to win the All-Ireland.
Clare impressively routed Kilkenny in the league semi-final and Cody feels that they, along with fellow league finalist Waterford, are the teams to beat in 2016. However, he also dismissed talk of Kilkenny and Clare already becoming the next great GAA rivarly.
"Everything is premature," he said.
"Everything is up for grabs completely. Clare and Waterford, on form at the moment, are the two best teams in the country. They proved that through the league.
"They are the two teams that beat us in the league and they are both going well. It would be crazy now for us to be thinking about Clare or Waterford or Tipperary or anybody else. We certainly aren't going to meet them yet and if we win the Leinster semi-final it would get us into a Leinster final so that would keep our focus on Leinster for the moment. "
Waterford's style of play has generated a lot of coverage, as their use of the sweeper system is something that traditionally wouldn't have been adopted by many hurling teams. Cody finds the trend interesting but doesn't necessarily think it will become widespread in the game.
"People call it modern hurling just because a couple of teams do it but every team has their own vision of the game," Cody said.
"It is based on the players you have available to you. It is based on what the thinking is in the coaches heads. Waterford have gone that way in the last few years and are seriously competitive.
"We don't play in that particular style but that is for them to do."
Cody has appeared at plenty of press events over the years where he has had various comments from various pundits put to him but he doesn't relish the eventual opportunity of launching verbal grenades from the TV studio the way so many ex-players have.
"I don't think I would be clever enough to be a pundit," he joked.
"You need a high level of intelligence to be a pundit and I don't think I would be in Ger's league at all."