Cody pleased fringe players being tested in climb from the bottom
BY Kilkenny standards, the beginning of this season's NHL proved somewhat worrying. A loss to Galway in Salthill on the opening day, followed by yet another, albeit by a solitary point, against Tipperary on day two, left the all-conquering Cats pointless, propping up the league table.
Eventually, a much-needed two points were secured over Waterford to get them back to winning ways and now, with another brace of points in the bag, manager Brian Cody's countenance has a much calmer and more contented look to it.
In the Kilkenny dressing-room yesterday, the James Stephens club-man and Kilkenny's most decorated manager ever, addressed the assembled press corps.
"The absolute demand for the last two matches was to win the games and try and have four points at this stage. Now we have the four points and, with another bit of luck, we'll try and drive on a little bit further," said Cody.
"We were bottom of the table and maybe we are still bottom of the table for all I know because I haven't a clue who won what. But look, we're getting an opportunity – there's a huge amount of our panel being tested, tested seriously.
"Like I said, our backs were to the wall, it was absolutely essential that we beat Waterford and beat Clare – it was tough to beat both of them.
"But we've beaten both of them and we are where we are and we'll see where we'll go from here."
On his new-look full-back line, he said, "If you look back to the All-Ireland final, the full-back line we had that day were all out through injury today.
"I mean, Kieran Joyce had to go back and play full-back today, though he's been playing wing-back up to this. You know, lads were being dragged around the place, but performances were good.
"I'm happy, happy with a win and, like I said, we are where we are and we'll see where we'll go."
Meanwhile, Clare selector Mike Deegan admitted he was frustrated by his team's performance. "Big time, big time," he said. "We know we had the opportunities and that's the disappointing part of it. We dominated the second half.
"The amount of wides in the second half just wasn't good enough. Our shooting last week (against Cork) was fantastic and it wasn't so fantastic today."
So, with one round of games left to play, it's all up for grabs with Kilkenny facing Cork, Clare meeting Tipperary and Waterford squaring up to bottom-of-the-table Galway.
This tight and exciting Division 1A will have to wait until the last puck to see who qualifies for the latter stages and who gets demoted to Division 1B.