Wednesday 23 January 2019

Cody's crew show up the folly of hasty judgements

Breheny beat

Brian Cody shakes the hand of Michael Ryan after Kilkenny got the better of Tipperary in Sunday’s league final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Brian Cody shakes the hand of Michael Ryan after Kilkenny got the better of Tipperary in Sunday’s league final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

I was the last to leave Nowlan Park on Sunday evening. The last, that is, except Mick O'Neill, who has the keys to the place.

Unlike many GAA grounds where the media face stern 'have ye no homes to go to' looks, accompanied by the sound of jangling keys, an hour after a game, Kilkenny allow us to stay as long as required.

They even put on refreshments, power up the Wi-Fi and leave us to our business. It might seem like a basic facility in the modern age, but it hasn't caught on in a lot of counties.

In fairness to the Kilkenny county board, they have got this right for many years.

They would have been happy to see the media in Nowlan Park until midnight on Sunday, since all the laptops and microphones were turning out glowing descriptions of the win over Tipperary in the Allianz hurling League final.

The scenes afterwards as thousands of Kilkenny supporters flooded onto the pitch for the presentation were reminiscent of a county that had not won a title for very a long time.

Of course it was quite a famine by Kilkenny standards, since the previous national title success was in the 2015 All-Ireland final.

Only six of the team that beat Galway that day started last Sunday, underlining the extent of the change in Kilkenny.

Even more significantly, most of it has come this year, as shown by the line-up on Sunday, which featured only six of the 15 that started against Waterford in the All-Ireland qualifier last July.

That's why this league success was so special for Kilkenny, having been achieved with a new-look team, where half of them haven't yet played in the senior championship.

As Kilkenny supporters basked in the post-match joy, many will, no doubt, have recalled the difference between last Sunday and the first week in February when they watched their team blitzed in the first quarter by Clare, who raced into an 11-point lead.

Brian Cody began repair work unusually early, bringing in three subs in the first 25 minutes.

Kilkenny recovered well, eventually losing by just three points, but it still left them with two defeats and joint bottom of the table with Waterford.

That's when the nonsense started. Talk of a steep Kilkenny decline gathered momentum, not least among former players-turned-pundits, some of whom will say anything in the interests of furthering their notoriety.

Two months on, we're being told by many of the same observers that Kilkenny are back as a superpower again.

The truth? They were never 'gone' in the first place, so they can't be 'back' from somewhere they didn't even visit.

Judging teams on the latest piece of evidence, as opposed to the whole case, is rampant in modern-day punditry. It's the ultimate in shallowness, with many of its purveyors prepared to make total eejits of themselves in pursuit of the ultimate goal of being noticed.

Just as we are now being asked to believe that Kilkenny have rediscovered the path to true greatness again, serious doubts are being raised about Tipperary on the basis of last Sunday.

Granted, they performed poorly in the second half but at least they were in the final. Is it not better to get there and lose rather than not qualify?

Michael Ryan and his co-strategists will have learned a lot from last Sunday. So will the Tipperary players.

What of All-Ireland champions, Galway, who didn't even make it out of 1B, or Munster champions, Cork, who had to survive a relegation play-off to stay in 1A? What of Waterford, who were relegated from 1A?

Have all three not come out of the league with more question marks against them than Tipperary?

Yet, they not being subjected to anything like the same scrutiny because they didn't reach the final.

At least Cork can point to a win over Kilkenny, whereas Galway failed their only two real tests against Limerick and Wexford in successive games.

The defeat by Limerick means they will be in 1B for a third successive season in 2019.

Because Galway are the reigning All-Ireland champions, they have been allowed a pass, on the basis that retaining the title is all that matters to them this year.

Winning the All-Ireland is just as important to all the other counties and when the real battles begin, the fact that Galway are defending champions will mean nothing.

Few have paid much heed to their league failure, whereas Tipperary's defeat last Sunday has allegedly exposed some serious fault lines in their operation.

Ryan can now work on them, while teams like Galway that didn't reach the final may have the same, or indeed additional problems, without actually knowing it.

So who got the most from the league - Tipperary who lost the final or those who didn't get that far? Surely, it's Tipp.

There's always a tendency to rush to judgement at the end of the league, more so than most this year after Kilkenny's success with a new-look side.

Yes, they were good last Sunday but it didn't take Cody long to apply a perspective that seems to have been lost it the clamour to eulogise them.

"Today has been very, very good but when the championship starts, everything starts differently then," he said.

He's right. In the meantime, it's best to study the overall picture rather than exaggerate a few snapshots.

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Irish Independent

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