Saturday 21 April 2018

Comment: Brian Cody's sideline masterclass proves once again that he is hurling's Godfather

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

It is Brian Cody's 18th season as Kilkenny manager and it has been 43 years since he made his inter-county debut as a player, but even now, at 62 years of age, he remains as passionate and uncompromising as the first day he swung a hurley.

You don't need to have studied honours maths to understand the outrageous arithmetic of Cody's Kilkenny reign - 18 seasons, 15 All-Ireland finals. Today was as good an example as any as to why his team come back year after year, despite the changing personnel.

The constant is the man on the sideline. Him, and his peaked cap.

Read more: The hurling season finally explodes into life as Kilkenny outlast Waterford in Thurles cracker

Kilkenny outlasted Waterford - barely - in a rip-roaring, barn-burning, end-to-end cracker in the All-Ireland semi-final replay in Thurles tonight.

2-19 to 2-17 indicates a tight encounter and you can justifiably point to the Kilkenny manager as the difference maker today.

First, the intangibles.

With the second half winding down, Liam Blanchfield buckled a Waterford ball carrier over the sideline with a hefty shoulder. Brian Cody punched the air, with passion for the game and his county coursing through his veins. A line ball had been won, yet another marker laid down.

When the referee penalised his player, Cody was apoplectic. First, he directed his ire at the official. Then, when he heard something from the Waterford coaching staff, he quickly turned.

The 11-time All-Ireland-winning manager seemed to grow another three or four inches as he strode over to Derek McGrath and a Waterford assistant coach, standing his ground as always, unwilling to give an inch, unwilling to even let a relatively inconsequential free pass without comment.

Earlier, right before half time, he was doing his best impression of former US President Lyndon Johnson as he leaned in towards linesman Brian Gavin to voice his displeasure with some of the first half decisions.

These moments are unquantifiable but when a game is decided by more or less the puck of a ball, it is hard to dispute the positive influence that Cody's sideline aura has on his charges.

The manager's influence wasn't solely limited to eye-catching sideline moments, however.

The aforementioned Blanchfield was named to start ahead of John Power and in a move reminiscent of Walter Walsh getting blooded in the 2012 All-Ireland final replay, the swap was inspired.

The forward hit 0-3 from play and also won a crucial late free that put Kilkenny ahead by one.

Cody's decision to start Eoin Larkin paid similar dividend. The two-time All-Star only hit one point but he worked tirelessly, consistently harrying the Waterford players in possession.

A host of contributions, some intangible, others actual, that serve as a timely reminder of why Brian Cody has led Kilkenny to 11 All-Ireland titles and 15 finals.

When there is a selection decision to be made, he will make it. When there is a sideline confrontation to be had, he will have it.

13 years as an inter-county player. 18 years as an inter-county manager. Nothing has changed. No passion has dimmed.

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