Cats boss Cody hails 'exceptional' Limerick as country's best team
Kilkenny have come the hard road to Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final, but the journey has been no less pleasurable for manager Brian Cody.
It's a little over a year ago that his side were struggling in Division 1A of the league. Two losses in the opening two rounds had them staring at the relegation trap door. The reaction to those defeats was over the top, but Kilkenny losses under Cody are infrequent - especially when they arrive in rapid succession.
What followed was classic Kilkenny - and classic Cody. They dug out a league title and, playing their third championship game in as many weeks, brought soon-to-be Liam MacCarthy Cup winners Limerick to the brink in an All-Ireland quarter-final. As usual, the Cats boss refused to use 2018's busy itinerary as an excuse.
"That's last year and it's totally irrelevant now at this stage, everything changes. We weren't in the semi-final last year, we're in it this year. They went on to great things last year and that's where it is right now," said Cody.
They stand now in the last four, third in the betting for outright glory. But Cody's braves signalled their intent when they scalped a fancied Cork side, refusing to give in. Cork had them in trouble but Brendan Cummins' assertion that you have to be five or six points better than Kilkenny to beat them never rang so true.
Still Cody keeps a narrow focus. What happened last year or last week matters little to him. It's all or nothing against John Kiely's men this weekend and there's a romance to that high wire act that brings out the best in the Cats.
"The fact that we played last Sunday (week), you can look at it two ways, maybe (in) how fresh we'll be and Limerick from that point of view but neither of those things matter as far as we're concerned. And I'm sure as far as they're concerned, either. It's on the day, we've got to get it right and they've got to get it right and that's what it's all about."
The Cats are likely to face a different sort of test from Limerick than they did against Cork when they altered their approach on the hoof in order to stem the onslaught.
"Maybe everybody has a different style but at the same time the game is hurling and you take on the challenges that are put in front of you," continued the Kilkenny boss.
"The game will happen and the game will take a certain style and shape and you've got to be able to adapt to whatever is put in front of you.
Tactics "Everyone will want to impose their own game on the opposition but that's not going to happen the whole time and you've got to be able to deal with what they are throwing at you and at the same time try to play your own game. But at the end of the day, people talk an awful lot about how the game is played and different tactics but it's still hurling."
The sides meet in the championship for the third successive year and Limerick have changed considerably since they were beaten by Kilkenny in 2017.
"To be very clear about Limerick, I'm not just saying it now, (because) I said it at the start of the year, I've said it any time I was ever asked about Limerick. I think they are an outstanding team, the best team in the country as I would see it, they're All-Ireland champions and entitled to that respect. And that's fair enough, then they go on and win the league which further embellishes what they've done and then they go on to the Munster final, their performance in the Munster final was exceptional, it wasn't just good, it was exceptional. I'm not just here saying that to build them up or take pressure off us at all. I'm only answering the question, what do I think of Limerick? I think they're excellent."