We'll drive on without the boss – Delaney
When JJ Delaney glanced over towards the sideline in Thurles during their league semi-final against Galway last week, he admits he found it strange.
The totemic presence of the GAA's most decorated inter-county manager stalking the sideline is long ingrained in the minds of hurling supporters, so it's only natural that his absence would have an impact on the most experienced Kilkenny players.
And Delaney knows more than just about everyone, that match day is Brian Cody's day – the crucible he really thrives in.
"When you're on the field you're looking over at him. It's the game days that he takes over. That's his baby more than anything. It is different looking over to the line and not seeing him there, but we just have to drive it on now without him. We'll see how it goes," says Delaney.
Some day soon, Delaney, now Cody's second-longest serving player, expects he'll "burst through the door." They don't expect a tip-off in advance however. That wouldn't be his way.
"You'll realise it's just back to business as usual. He wouldn't be sort of man to tell us. He's just taken himself out, get himself right and, when he comes back, he'll be back full tilt," he adds.
Delaney hasn't had contact with his manager since his operation and doesn't believe anyone within the squad has. "Ah sure you leave him be! No news is good news when you don't hear from him. When he's talking to you, you're probably in trouble! You leave well enough alone when you don't hear from him. We just heard the operation went well and we're presuming he's okay and recovering well."
As to whether Cody can come straight back in seamlessly when he returns, is something the versatile defender can't answer.
"Sure no one knows that only himself," says Delaney. "He can't come back unless he's right. He has to look after his own health. He's a human being at the end of the day. He has to get himself right before he does come back in. It's a stressful job. The last few years we're probably making it a bit more stressful on him as well.
"If Brian thought he wouldn't be back for another month or whatever, he'd let Mick (Dempsey) know, he'd let Martin (Fogarty) know. He wouldn't let anything affect the run-up to the championship."
The Johnstown Fenians man believes Henry Shefflin will overcome his battle with his latest injury, once again reinforcing the type of character he is.
"The last three or four years he's after going through a lot. It shows how strong a person he is himself. A lesser man would have said, 'ah, it's not worth it. Let's get out at the top'.
"But he's busting himself to get back playing again. He'll be back at some stage of the championship, but when, I don't know, that will be up to himself. He won't leave any stone unturned in trying to get back."
Delaney admits that winning a league title in Nowlan Park against Tipperary piles on the motivation for a team that has won everything almost everywhere else in the past.
"Of course, in Nowlan Park, you always want to win in your backyard. At the start of the year, it was about making the final. Obviously, against the old enemy, Tipperary (the desire increases) – to have the bragging rights for a few months coming up."
Delaney has remained rooted to full-back into this season, with no obvious candidate progressing to liberate him up to the half-back line.
His preference would be left half-back, but he admits he doesn't have a say.
"There's a bit more hurling out there at half-back. You'd be under the puck-outs; be a bit more in general play, but more than anything, it's a case of going where you're put, simple as that," says Delaney.
"At full-back the first thing you have to do is stop your man really. If your man gets the ball and turns you he's straight in on goal. You have to stop him straight away. That's your number one job. Nine times out of 10 you're under pressure and you just want to get it out of the danger area, that's all your trying to do."