Kilkenny boss hails response to injuries
Brian Cody would rather not be here in the Citywest Hotel on the first Monday of September, the morning after the 11th All-Ireland hurling title of his astonishing reign as Kilkenny hurling manager.
No, he'd rather if it was the middle of August. Or even a little earlier.
Same place, same sense of satisfaction alright, but just not the date.
Cody has touched on championship reform in the past but now, as a winner again at a time when the game has thrown up some great seasons, he sees it as a more appropriate time to make a call for change.
The game's most successful manager believes clubs and club players are getting too raw a deal and the imbalance needs to be addressed. For once and for all.
"It's not enough just to leave things as it is. The time to change in everything you do is when you are going really well and things are good and strong," he said.
"Sunday's match was great, the previous semi-final was a great game, last year's All-Ireland finals were great games. That's the time to see what can we do better," he pointed out. "The whole club thing (needs change), and everyone is crying out for it."
Cody would like to see a shorter time frame. "If you dilute the genuineness or absolute importance of the club scene, and people pontificate about it and they talk about it, but the All-Ireland championship has to be condensed into a shorter period of time in some way."
But he qualifies that by saying he doesn't have the answers.
"Look, I am probably the worst person to ask how it could be improved. I'm not going to come up with a solution. I don't have a solution.
"But what I do know is this - the mix with club and inter-county is not as it needs to be. Club players are suffering, and inter-county players are club players. There's 34 different lads on our panel and players coming in and out," he said.
"But they are all club players, every Galway player there is a club player. The game is about club, club, club and it has to be. The mix is wrong is all I can say about it.
"The people who have ability and have the responsibility to deal with this thing can't just keep forgetting about it. They need to look at it."
Cody acknowledged after the retirements of six of last year's squad that Kilkenny were a team "in transition" but he stressed yesterday that every team should always be in transition anyway because to stand still means to lose ground.
"Transition means change. Moving on from something you did before. We were, that's reality. But we're all in transition, really. If you're not then you're standing still.
"So transition is part and parcel of life, of sport, and of team sport in particular. Because team sport is made up of individuals, and individuals come and go, get form and lose form.
"And the team ethos doesn't have to be in transition, but because of the flux of individuals within that thing, transition is part and parcel of it. But it's not a bad thing."
Cody admitted that once the retirements were announced and dealt with it they were never allowed to linger in the dressing room. What worried him more was the scale of injuries over the last seven weeks that must have felt like 2010 at times.
"To be honest, once the lads left - and they are obviously part of Kilkenny hurling folklore and everywhere else - but they were gone from our dressing room.
"And for me what was much more difficult was the amount on injuries we fell into this year. That was tough. The lads (retired players) were gone. They weren't even mentioned. But the injured players were still part and parcel of our panel.
"Obviously we were hit with injuries at different times. You think of Richie Power. He played 10 minutes of hurling this year, and that's how good he is.
"Michael Fennelly, how he comes up with performances like that, in a semi-final and final, beggars everything that is supposed to be part an parcel of what we're doing.
"You talk about the lads we lost, then add Jackie Tyrrell, and Power, and then you're into serious territory.
"Richie Hogan," he continued. "How he played the semi-final, we were still wondering and how he got into the field yesterday is nuts as well. Because he had a grade two tear in his quad muscle.
"Two weeks ago he literally turned around in training, while running down the sideline recovering from his back, and literally tore it.
"Eoin Larkin cracked his thumb, was in a cast until last Tuesday. And these lads just said, 'We'll be grand, we'll be there'. And that's what they did.
"If we hadn't have won yesterday, this wouldn't be an excuse either.
"All it is is an indication of their resilience. The retirements were never a factor. The injuries became a factor for sure. The retirements did not impinge on out transition.