Tuesday 20 August 2019

Billy Keane: 'Brian Cody comes out on top again to prove age is but a number'

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is congratulated by Barry Hickey, the Kilkenny County Board Treasurer
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is congratulated by Barry Hickey, the Kilkenny County Board Treasurer
'Guts, endeavour, skill and the love of your own never go out of fashion.' Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Kilkenny and Limerick gave us a game they have nowhere else on earth. There was no backstop or back door. This was do or die.

Limerick died fighting with their hurling boots on. Kilkenny deserved to win a game where the only break in the savage intensity was at halfway through.

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The hurling world was calling time on Brian Cody. The savvy were lining up his successor. He was old-fashioned, we were told.

Guts, endeavour, skill and the love of your own never go out of fashion. So there was Cody, ruddy faced and close to boiling over on a roasting day. Cody may have been hot but he was never bothered. The greatest manager of them all got every call right when it was almost impossible to shut out the game and think clearly.

I met one of his pupils one time and Mr Cody told the young lads they should bring their hurls everywhere with them, even to bed. The class of 2019 were well taught by The Master. There will be no "could have worked harder" on their report cards.

Kilkenny probably benefited from having more game time over the last few weeks. JP would never send a horse to Cheltenham without the benefit of a prep race.

Time was out of breath and the game flew by faster than the last day of the summer holidays. I wonder what the professors of quantum physics made out of the phenomenon. Nobody can catch up with the hurling.

The officials couldn't keep up either. Right at the end, Limerick were given a sideline cut up near the Kilkenny goal.

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Darragh O'Donovan's nine iron was waved wide. The strong probability is that the sliotar touched a Kilkenny hurl on the way over the end line.

I have some sympathy for the officials. The ball is very small and it's not easy to spot the merest touch of flying leather on a raised hurl. Significantly, one of the Limerick players tried his best to stop the sideline puck from going out over the end line. This was not an easy spot.

The referee will be blamed but he did let the game flow. There's crime and there's punishment. Some of the fouls committed in hurling would be dealt with far more severely if the offence took place on the football field. A Limerick back tracked back to pull down TJ Reid just on the edge of the penalty area. The score at the time was Kilkenny 1-7 Limerick 0-2.

There was every possibility TJ would have scored a goal and Limerick would be 11 down. Not many teams come back from 11 down. My instinctive reaction was 'black card', but there's no black card in hurling. Maybe there should be.

There were a couple of incidents that could have been red cards and would have been if this was a football game.

But then again, every aspect of our lives is over-regulated. You would hate to see a gentrification of hurling. Our national game is the last outpost of the Ireland of tearaway.

Kilkenny tore into Limerick and as the first half went on Limerick fought back. Limerick, true to their tradition, fought hand to hand. If there was any flaw in terms of courage, well then Kilkenny will find you out. Players were beaten to the ball and players made mistakes, but not a man among them pulled out of a fifty-fifty.

TJ Reid's surname will now only be used when forms are to be filled up. He joins DJ and Henry. TJ is a scrapper who plays hurling with accuracy and brains. There are very few who can do the two.

Young Adrian Mullen from Kilkenny was one of a couple of players who had time on the ball. Mullen is only a chap, as they say in Kilkenny, but he must have been this way before in a previous life.

Shane Dowling came on when Limerick looked beaten. Dowling is a good few years older than Mullen but he too seemed to find the time to think.

Tennis

His goal was like a tennis serve and he hit the back of the net with his body wide open for a flake. Dowling drifted out the field and set up two more points. He almost saved the day.

The last sideline puck could have made a draw out of it but Kilkenny were the better team on the day. Limerick hit too many wides and seemed to be caught by surprise early on when Kilkenny were voracious and ferocious. Limerick's scoring rate in the first half was under 50pc.

Some of the Limerick shooters did get space but it was all a rush, probably because they expected a Cat terrier to come snapping.

This isn't golf. There's no practice swings, and I wonder if JP McManus, who has done so much for Limerick hurling, would have swapped Ryder for MacCarthy.

Limerick will be back. John Kiely has the players on his side. And in the end they were only beaten by a point.

Kilkenny have hit form at the right time and their injury crisis is over. Brian Cody will know what to do between now and the final. He always does. Cody's detractors would do well to remember age is only a number. The only number that really counts is posted on the scoreboard.

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