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'We've to acknowledge we were nowhere near pace of it': Buckley


FINAL FEVER: Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley at yesterday’s
Allianz HL Division 1 final promotion

FINAL FEVER: Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley at yesterday’s Allianz HL Division 1 final promotion

FINAL FEVER: Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley at yesterday’s Allianz HL Division 1 final promotion

A headline from mid-February: 'Face it, Cody won't win another All-Ireland title'.

Another: 'Cody's time as top Cat has come to an end - the legendary manager should be moved to a Director role'.

Hindsight is definitive in the demonstration of the folly of February fortune telling.

But it's worth noting too that Brian Cody himself has, in the past, been inclined to psychologically cut out and keep such printed prophecies for later use.

In 2011, after reclaiming the Liam MacCarthy the season after Tipperary had apparently slayed the beast on their way to five-in-a-row, Cody brought up one particular line enshrined in print on the Monday after they had been well beaten by Dublin in that year's league final.

It read: 'Croker Chokers,' and Cody couldn't resist the occasion of his team's reclaiming of the All-Ireland title and an audience with the media to take it out and analyse it.

"It was a bit of a strange thing to say about a team beaten in one championship match in Croker in six years," he pointed out - and not unreasonably either.

If Cody paid much attention to the winter talk just past, he'd have heard most of it agreeing that this year would be his greatest challenge and arguably, greatest achievement should Kilkenny succeed, given the accelerated erosion to load bearing parts of the 2014/15 All-Ireland SHC winning teams recently.

That natural disintegration - and the complete disappearance of any trace of the great four-in-a-row team led to an unseasonably early exit from last year's championship, just a year on from a September drubbing from Tipperary.

In late December, Michael Fennelly retired, having finally succumbed to the damage to his own body.

And that stage, we knew that Cody would be without Paul Murphy, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan for all of the league - at least - and that TJ Reid wouldn't be fit to start it.

So opening losses to Cork and Clare in the league forced some into making the ultimate declaration about hurling's most decorated manager.

Now, insofar as anything is certain in the first hurling season since the introduction of the newly-designed provincial championships, Kilkenny look to be in the sort of sporting health usually described as 'rude'.

"Realistically it wasn't looking good after the first two league games," admits Kilkenny's captain, Cillian Buckley.

"It was an uphill battle from there but definitely a challenge put down to us to get back into the business end of the league and we done that.

Come summer, who knows?

But it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that the man to bring Kilkenny back to peak competitiveness in the absence of so many legends is the game's confirmed greatest manager.


"There wasn't any real notice given to it being honest," says Buckley about the Cody headlines.

"Definitely any of them comments over the years we try and stay away from anything like that. There was no sense of any panic or anything like that."

Four wins on the bounce lands them back in a league final where their home and away arrangement with Tipperary means they will play for a spring title in Nowlan Park.

"That was the challenge we set ourselves at the start of this year," Buckley reveals.

"That trend is definitely showing - that teams that are showing their form earlier on in the league go on and carry it through and have a good Championship campaign.

"We didn't have it last year and we didn't necessarily have it the year before as well.

"It wasn't easy to look at the rest of the championship campaign but you have to face up to it and acknowledge that we were nowhere near the pace of it last year," the Dicksboro man adds.

"I faced up to watch the All-Ireland here last year alright, thinking back from previous years of the joys that came with the wins and the despair of the losses like in 2016.

"But it's probably good to watch on and get a bit of hunger back, maybe through sheer anger of watching on," he concludes.