Ryan hopes to avoid joining Cody's list of vanquished foes
Cunningham says Cats boss's sideline 'presence' is real plus
Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30
Eleven have tried and eight have failed, a results sequence that underlines the extent of the challenge facing Michael Ryan in Sunday's All-Ireland final.
He will complete his debut season as Tipperary manager in a sideline duel with Brian Cody, which could be hugely influential in deciding the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Ryan is bidding to become the first manager since fellow Tipperary man Liam Sheedy in 2010 to preside over an All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny.
Cork pair Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Donal O'Grady are the only other managers to have led teams to All-Ireland titles against Kilkenny in the Cody era. O'Grady also experienced a defeat against Kilkenny (2003) before Cork won a year later. Sheedy had a similar bad experience with Tipperary in 2009 before winning the following year.
Pat Fleury (Offaly), Cyril Lyons (Clare), John Allen (Cork), Richie Bennis (Limerick), Davy Fitzgerald (then Waterford), Declan Ryan (Tipperary), Anthony Cunningham (Galway) and Eamon O'Shea (Tipperary) have all had to congratulate Cody after another Kilkenny win.
Cody's prowling presence on the sideline has become hurling's equivalent of Alex Ferguson during his Manchester United days, with varying estimates of how much it's worth to Kilkenny.
Cunningham had more tangles with Cody than any other manager in 2012-'15 as Galway and Kilkenny clashed in three All-Ireland finals and four Leinster SHC games. It ended with Kilkenny winning four, Galway one while there were two draws.
So what's it like patrolling the sideline with Cody as your opposite number?
"Interesting, that's for sure. He'll voice his opinion when he feels he has to but I'll say this about him - never once in the several times I came across him did he say anything out of line, either to me or to the Galway players. Absolutely not. And I doubt if any other manager could say any different.
"He's a big man so he has a real presence on the sideline. It's all about the game with Cody. He gets stuck into the action the same as if he was playing. He's a massive fighter, which is reflected in the way Kilkenny play.
"But when a game is over it's over. There are no recriminations with him. And if Kilkenny lose, there's no whingeing or complaining either.
"Granted Kilkenny don't lose very often but when they do, he is always very gracious. In fairness, he appreciates good hurling, wherever it comes from, and if you beat Kilkenny, he'll accept it on its merits.
"He'll probably be plotting how to get you next time but that's what makes him the manager he is," said Cunningham
Having been in Sheedy's and O'Shea's backroom teams, Ryan has first-hand experience, albeit from one remove, of facing Kilkenny and Cody in finals.
This time, however, the big decisions rest with him and since all the signs are that it will be a very close encounter, it's crucial that he gets them right, especially against a man with such a proven track record.
Cunningham believes that Tipperary will have to show quite a lot of improvement on their semi-final win over Galway to end Kilkenny's three-in-a-row ambitions.
"There were times against Galway when Tipp looked a bit nervous. They got into good positions but didn't make them count. It's very hard to get away with that against Kilkenny. If you don't punish them, they'll punish you," he said.
Michael Fennelly's absence is seen as a major plus for Tipperary, especially after Kilkenny were twice stretched close to breaking point by Waterford in the semi-final. Tipp had earlier beaten Waterford easily in the Munster final.
"Fennelly will be a big loss - there's no doubt about that but Kilkenny are very good at working through difficulties. I would expect Conor Fogarty to go back out to midfield, with Kieran Joyce returning to centre-back.
"Joyce has done well on 'Bonner' Maher before so Kilkenny will probably go down that line again to make up for Fennelly's absence. They'll have Walter Walsh on Padraic Maher to stop one of Tipp's big ball-winners doing too much damage.
"What impressed me most about Kilkenny in the replay against Waterford was how well they used the ball.
"Their accuracy was first-class. Tipperary will need to improve on theirs to give themselves a real chance," added Cunningham.
Cody Final File
(How Kilkenny have done under him in All-Ireland finals. Rival managers in brackets)
1999: Cork (Jimmy Barry-Murphy) 0-13 Kilkenny 0-12
2000: Kilkenny 5-15 Offaly (Pat Fleury) 1-14
2002: Kilkenny 2-19 Clare (Cyril Lyons) 0-19
2003: Kilkenny 1-14 Cork (Donal O'Grady) 1-11
2004: Cork (Donal O'Grady) 0-17 Kilkenny 0-9
2006: Kilkenny 1-16 Cork (John Allen) 1-13
2007: Kilkenny 2-19 Limerick (Richie Bennis) 1-15
2008: Kilkenny 3-30 Waterford (Davy Fitzgerald) 1-13
2009: Kilkenny 2-22 Tipperary (Liam Sheedy) 0-23
2010: Tipperary (Liam Sheedy) 4-17 Kilkenny 1-18
2011: Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary (Declan Ryan) 1-16
2012: Kilkenny 0-19 Galway (Anthony Cunningham) 2-13
2012: Kilkenny 3-22 Galway (Anthony Cunningham) 3-11
2014: Kilkenny 3-22 Tipperary (Eamon O'Shea) 1-28
2014: Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary (Eamon O'Shea) 2-14
2015: Kilkenny 1-22 Galway (A Cunningham) 1-18