Monday 19 August 2019

Brian Cody: 'If players don't have that honesty of effort, then they haven't a hope of surviving'

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Much has changed since Brian Cody's first All-Ireland SHC final press night 20 years ago, but his management principles haven't.

While the tactical side of things has intensified, and the Kilkenny boss has adapted their style significantly where necessary, the basic requirement to don the black and amber shirt is still the same.

"Honesty of effort" is something Cody regularly spouts and it was never more relevant than in their semi-final defeat of Limerick where they outworked the defending All-Ireland champions and dumped them out of the championship.

Without that mentality to leave every drop of energy out on the pitch, they have no place in Cody's plans and it's the first thing he asks for in his Kilkenny squad.

"You see it very quickly. It is easy to make the ball talk if you have that sort of skill. But most of the time it is about honesty of effort. You are always being tested, in training, club matches or whatever. You can see leadership," Cody said.

"You can see genuineness, honesty a mile away. It is so important to have that. You can't switch it on and off. It is either what you do or don't. It is brilliant to have players who do it. Players who haven't those qualities haven't a hope of surviving.

"Inter-county players have to be skilful to make it, some have outrageous skill, but the make-up, the character and all they bring is important. It is a team game. You have to completely apply yourself from a team point of view.

Qualities

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"It is no use going out and saying, 'Sure I tapped over a few points myself'. What did you do for your team? That is what it is all about. If a lad hasn't those qualities he is not a gifted hurler."

Few gave the Cats any chance of making it to this year's All-Ireland final during a transitional period, but Cody has always been confident in the talent at his disposal and the memory jogs back to the morning after their last appearance in hurling's showpiece.

Kilkenny had just conceded 2-29 and been ripped to shreds by Tipp in 2016 but the 11-time All-Ireland-winning manager cut a defiant figure in the CityWest Hotel and was adamant that they would remain at the top table despite many predicting their demise.

"There are players on our panel who haven't been seen yet who will be top players - and quickly. You can be rest assured of that," Cody said nearly three years ago, and his words have certainly rung true in the last month.

Others may have lost their faith in Kilkenny but Cody never did, as he reiterated last week.

"The ambition at the start of the year was to be in the All-Ireland final. When people speculated on who might be there we weren't one of the teams. That was fair enough, but we knew we had to continue to build away, to build a team, to keep things going.

"We didn't have a very successful league campaign. All the time we were working towards the championship. The players were working hard and honestly I said at the start of the year, I would always say it, that I would have confidence in the players.

"I really believed there was serious talent, serious honesty there. We just kept things going, and here we are."

On the brink of his 16th All-Ireland SHC final as manager, with old nemesis Liam Sheedy and Tipperary in the other corner on Sunday, the James Stephens clubman was in jovial form and admitted that he has little control once the action spills between the white lines.

"I always feel helpless," Cody jokes when asked if he feels powerless when games are in the melting pot. "You are there and you can pretend you have this huge influence on things, but it is all about what is happening on the field.

"You can't go in on the field. I would never have any sense of my absolute importance to the players on match day at all. It is the importance of the players and what they bring. You live and die by that."

Cody is a character few know much about away from the sidelines, with the 65-year-old reluctant to give away much detail about himself. But he owes most of what he knows about hurling to his late father Bill.

"From the time you are a child you are storing away stuff without even knowing it. I have played under various coaches and managers and you pick up things as you go along.

"Then it is very important that you bring yourself to whatever situation you find yourself in. Bring your personality. You can't try to be someone else. You can bring what you think someone else might think is important to the job. You have to bring the things you believe are true for yourself to be consistent."

Cody (left) is hoping the confidence the win over Limerick has fostered will be on show against Tipperary.

"Knowing they can go to Croke Park and perform at that level against the best team in the county over the last 12 months has to help," Cody added.

Irish Independent

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