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Another epic showpiece draw gets the Cats' tongues

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Kilkenny manager Brian Cody - shaking hands with his Tipperary counterpart Eamon O'Shea - thought the 'changing' free against Brian Hogan was harsh. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody - shaking hands with his Tipperary counterpart Eamon O'Shea - thought the 'changing' free against Brian Hogan was harsh. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody - shaking hands with his Tipperary counterpart Eamon O'Shea - thought the 'changing' free against Brian Hogan was harsh. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny burst out of their dressing room door, threw themselves collectively into the arms of the waiting press and poured their hearts out like gibbering wrecks.

In our dreams.

A good half-hour after we first knocked, they emerged with game faces cemented on.

It was rumoured that the long delay was because one of them was having trouble producing a sample for the Sport's Council's drug testers. The only thing we can confirm was that their conversation, at least, had dried up.

They may just have been involved in another epic that was like a 71-minute experimental jazz riff on hurling but, off-pitch, no one was going off on any mazy verbal runs.

Someone had, literally, got the Cats' tongues.

Every player approached politely declined to be interviewed and eventually one confirmed "we're not allowed to talk".

That collective silence was possibly as eloquent a statement as you could get on their resolute frame of mind at this 'half-way' point. Their usual post-final banquet plans had already been hastily revised.

They were heading to City West alright but would exit immediately after their meal, leaving their minors to celebrate their first title in four years.

For Kilkenny's reaction we were left to depend entirely on manager Brian Cody, who took his usual Zen-like demeanour to almost an existential plane.

Asked about his emotions following a battle that dipped, soared and swirled like a John Coltrane saxophone solo, he said: "I don't know. I have no real phenomenal feelings. You want to win, you don't want to lose. We neither won nor we lost. I'm just as I am, to be honest."

After 53 years without a drawn hurling final we had just witnessed our third in a row, yet while the rest of us were still in a lather, Cody looked remarkably nonplussed, as he reflected on the madness of what had just happened.

The Top Cat's tail was yanked a little.

Was that last 'charging' free against Brian Hogan the correct decision?

"What did you think?" he replied.

"Harsh," said his inquisitor.

"So did I," Cody said, with no apparent rancour. "I thought it might have been for us, to be honest. I presumed it was for us but, look it, it wasn't. If it had gone over the bar it was their game, end of story, so thanks be to God it didn't.

"I kind of thought he (John O'Dwyer) would score it because he's good at it," he admitted. "I didn't realise it was the last puck of the game either. I reckoned we'd get one back if he did."

The result vindicated the GAA's investment in Hawk-Eye, it was suggested?

"It depends on what the umpire was going to do, whether he was going to signal a point or a wide," Cody said, before producing a killer backhand.

"You'd be thinking he'd be clever enough to signal it a wide since it was a wide. Obviously, it was a huge decision so it was definitive at least."

His tail was repeatedly tugged with questions about the penalty calls and the referee's performance but he just kept hitting everything back with a straighter bat than T J Reid. He wasn't in a position to get a good view of the penalties, nor was he going to talk about Barry Kelly, he said flatly.

"It's amazing to think it ended like that," he acknowledged. "They had dominance and we had dominance, and it to'ed and fro'ed and everything else. It was a great game, I would imagine, to be able to sit back and watch and relax," he grinned.

Moving Richie Hogan to centre-forward helped Kilkenny turn it around, he agreed.

"He got some great scores and Michael Fennelly thundered into the game. But, look it, they're flexible. They were probably more natural positions for both of them in lots of ways. Overall, it went well after that."

For a game that was expected to be all about King Henry's 10th coronation, there was surprise that he wasn't introduced earlier.

"They were doing very well, that was the reality," Cody said of Shefflin's 66th minute insertion. "They were playing excellent. We were really going at it at the time."

Was it hard to make decisions amid that mayhem?

"It always is," he admitted. "It's not as if you're inspired on the sideline to come up with something that will swing the game. There's no way that'll happen, it just goes ahead out there."

Advantage

Beating Galway in a replayed final in 2012 will surely give Kilkenny some advantage but Cody was having none of that.

"Ah, I don't know does it help. It's their way of doing it and our way of doing it and there's no magic in it, you know," he insisted.

Was he alarmed about conceding so many scoring chances, he was asked, especially goals, with Tipp missing five chances alone in the second half?

"They conceded what we conceded," was Cody's inarguable logic. "I haven't thought about anything like that at all. You're playing against a team who can score easily. I'm sure they will be looking at the same thing."

As to having to do it all over again he was taking his usual pragmatic approach.

"Two teams did it (drew) last year, two teams did it the year before, and two will do it again. You go ahead and deal with it. It's no different.

"We clawed our way back into this game in the first half. We clawed our way ahead at the start of the second half and the thing doesn't change. You still have to go ahead and play the game again and work your way through it. The battle is on. You go ahead. Could it go either way? Yes it could."

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