Cody's redeployment for '78 season put future boss in Cork's firing line
Brian Cody has never had things all his own way against Cork, writes Marie Crowe
This may be hard to believe, but Brian Cody hasn't always returned home after an All-Ireland final to a hero's welcome. In fact, what happened when he arrived back in Kilkenny after losing the 1978 All-Ireland final to Cork was just the opposite.
In the aftermath of Cork's victory, stories circulated about Cody being booed during the homecoming ceremony in Kilkenny, followed by reports that the experience had affected him deeply.
However, in his memoirs published last year, Cody said he didn't play as poorly in that final as it was made out at the time, that he has no recollection of booing and to this day bears no scars.
"There were stories afterwards of how I was booed when we arrived home in Kilkenny on the Monday evening and how this left an indelible mark on me," he wrote.
"In fact, you still read references to what is supposed to have happened that evening followed by claims that it had a profound impact on me, turning me into some sort of ferocious character.
"Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists, but the truth is a lot less colourful. For a start, I have absolutely no recollection of being booed and if it did happen it would have come from a small number of idiots whose views were completely irrelevant. As for the claim that the memory of a few idiots booing for the sake of it might have shaped how I came to think and act over the years, it's just plain laughable."
Cody's team-mate Kevin Fennelly, a goal scorer on the day in the 1-15 to 2-8 defeat, has no recollection of booing either. Pat Henderson, however, recalls the whole team being on the receiving end of it.
From his arrival on the inter-county scene in 1975, Cody had been utilised in the full-back and half-back lines. But for the 1978 season the selectors decided to try him at full-forward, a move that raised many eyebrows.
But the Cats had lost Eddie Keher to retirement the year before and had been defeated in the Leinster final by Wexford for the two previous years, so confidence wasn't that high.
"He always played in the backs, but it just happened that we were looking for a big man up front and he fitted the bill so they tried him out there," recalls Fennelly.
"It was a question of deploying resources as best we could, we seemed to have a surplus of backs. I know that because I couldn't get my place, I came on as a sub. Brian was a back but he had been playing centre-forward with his club on and off and playing well," said Henderson.
For the most part the switch worked well and Cody excelled in his new position. By the time Kilkenny were crowned Leinster champions, the full-forward was the team's second highest scorer behind Liam 'Chunky' O'Brien with 2-3 in two games. In the semi-final against Galway, the decision to relocate him once again paid dividends when Cody scored 1-2.
However, Cody's good run came to an end in the final. Cork were going for the three-in-a-row.
"Whoever hurled best on the day was going to win and we didn't hurl as well as we should have," says Fennelly. "It was a very average All-Ireland as far as I can remember and we certainly didn't do ourselves justice. We didn't play well as a team so we didn't deserve to win. We were in the midst of a rebuilding process and we were not that overly sure of ourselves."
As expected, the game started at lightning pace with Jimmy Barry Murphy getting a point straight from the throw-in. Kilkenny answered with that Fennelly goal and subsequently the sides spent a good portion of the match going tit for tat. But a goal from Barry Murphy in the second half put the Rebels five points ahead and in the driving seat for the three-in-a-row.
"Things didn't go very well for Brian that day," said Henderson, who came on as a sub that afternoon. "It was probably his only bad performance in an All-Ireland. He played in '75 and had a great game and in '82 and '83 he had stormers. That was just one bad day out for him. I think Brian is the kind of individual who analyses his own game and he wouldn't have been very happy with his performance on that day but he came back bigger and better than ever."
Cody failed to score in the game and much of the post-match analysis focused on the merits or otherwise of turning a full-back into a full-forward. But he recovered and, despite the negativity surrounding his foray into the forwards, Cody managed to use what happened in 1978 to his advantage.
"I was glad to have experienced it," he said later. "Maybe it gave me an insight into attacking play that stood to me as a player and manager later on."