Early Cats exit was inevitable, says Cody
Kilkenny boss accepts team not 'good enough' to challenge for championship honours in 2013
Brian Cody has accepted that there was "a kind of inevitability" about Kilkenny's comparatively early departure from last year's hurling championship.
Kilkenny ended up without championship silverware for only the second time during Cody's reign, but with a new league campaign just days away, the longest serving manager in the game feels it's not something they should "crucify" themselves over.
"Our form was never good enough to say we could end up where we wanted to be. We got knocked out at a time when we'd prefer not to be knocked out, but it's not as if it was mysterious, or something we need to pretend to crucify ourselves over,"he said.
"I suppose we wouldn't tie ourselves into knots over it either. There was a kind of inevitability about it in the sense that we were never flowing – we won the league having lost the first two games, and we were candidates for relegation just as we were candidates to make the league final.
"As ever, the resolve was top-class, the spirit, the drive in the team. The will to try to carve out wins was still there, and we had a couple of good championship wins, but we preceded that by not doing well."
Cody revealed that there had been no great sense of revisionism about what went wrong in 2013.
"All of us have our own thoughts on it, but it's done and dusted. There's not a whole range of questions – 'if we had done this, if we had done that' – and I don't think it would have served any great purpose if there were. We're all back together and that's it.
"I wouldn't say there is renewed determination because the determination has been intact for a long, long time. It's there. It's strong. We weren't beaten because of a lack of endeavour or determination or honesty – a lack of any of those things.
"We didn't play well enough to win the games, but it was never a lack of effort or honesty or anything like that. We were beaten by a better team on the day. We have the challenge now to try and get back to a better level of consistency and performance and that's going to be very, very difficult because there's a lot of competition out there."
Cody feels Kilkenny have slipped out of the top four in hurling by virtue of last year's results.
"We are not in the top four teams now at the moment anyway. I'm not looking to take pressure off us by saying that," he said.
"At the start of last year we were the top team, we were the All-Ireland champions. It's clear cut to me, the All-Ireland champions are the top team and the four semi-finalists are the top four teams. Results are definitive and that's it. We failed to get there, we had rather patchy form. The challenge for us now is to try get up to be one of those four teams but it's a hell of a challenge."
Cody senses that All-Ireland champions Clare are a team that respond well to pressure and insists that all the pressure is now on those attempting to dethrone them.
"I would say there is more pressure not being All-Ireland champions than being champions," he said.
"I think it's an indication of your quality and where you stand with regard to all other teams and they won it in a way that suggested that they are more than capable of playing without pressure. They won it having not won a Munster championship and coming through various challenges.
"They won it in a very fine way. I'd say would they consider themselves under pressure, maybe they do.
"They've a lot of very young players. They'd naturally be very fit and I don't think it's going to have too much of an impact on them at all to be honest. They're young, fit and very good hurlers. That helps."
Speaking at yesterday's Glanbia hosted reception to mark a 16th year of partnership, Cody admitted it was "possible" that a more difficult league campaign than they have been accustomed to may have caught up with them.
"It's hard to say – possibly. It was hard won, because we had two defeats to start off and we were under pressure to win matches. The response was good, even though we could have lost to Clare and Cork, but we battled on," he said.
"There's no excuses. That's not the reason we didn't win later on. We were beaten by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final and that drove us into further games, but everybody has to face that situation and deal with it. Our form was patchy and not the kind of form you need to win championships."
Kilkenny are missing a diamond of key players including Michael Fennelly, who returns this week from a long spell in Australia where he linked up with Sydney Swans as part of the masters in sports performance at the University of Limerick.
Richie Hogan, Richie Power and JJ Delaney are also out for Sunday's visit to Ennis to take on the All-Ireland champions. The nine-time All-Ireland-winning manager again stressed his concern over the direction that the officiating of hurling continues to take.
"There appears to be a certain will there, that kind of a sort of pressure there to kind of clean up a game that doesn't need to be cleaned up for whatever reason," he said.
Cody hopes that calls for the introduction of a black card in hurling will be resisted.
"I've never even actually gone down the road of thinking about these black cards. I don't know much about them. It's just another card being introduced. I'm not going to pontificate about football or anything like that, or how it's going. I don't know. I have no idea how it's going.
"Do we need another card (in hurling)?" he added. "Absolutely not."