Sunday 25 February 2018

Cyril Farrell: There's only one candidate to lead the Cats forward

Brian Cody has done it all at the Kilkenny helm and won't take latest loss lying down

Brian Cody in pensive mood as he oversees Kilkenny’s early exit from the Championship at
Semple Stadium on Saturday night. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Brian Cody in pensive mood as he oversees Kilkenny’s early exit from the Championship at Semple Stadium on Saturday night. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Cyril Farrell

There was always a queue of managers waiting to take the reins when I left the Galway hot seat, but you couldn't say the same in Kilkenny and there's only one man to lead them out of this fallow period - Brian Cody.

What the man has accomplished in terms of silverware is astonishing, but Eoin Larkin truly summed up his greatness when he spoke of what Cody's Cats always bring to the table: spirit, attitude and a never-say-die mentality. All of those qualities were evident as they went down fighting to Waterford in Thurles on Saturday night.

With 10 minutes of normal time to go Kilkenny were dead and buried. Cody must be close to God, because he resurrected them from the ashes like so often in the past and they stayed fighting till the end and could have snatched it.

Everything went right for Waterford for an hour and Kilkenny still drew level; that's testament to Cody and one of the main reasons why I don't think he'll be going anywhere. If they had thrown in the towel or stopped playing for the manager, it'd be a different story.

They had every reason to collapse with the finish line approaching, they were punch drunk and yet refused to hit the canvas. It was typical of a Cody team.

Drastic action is the easiest call after defeat, but if Brian wants to stay, then the job is his. No one will push him out.

He's retired from teaching so his life is devoted to Kilkenny hurling. What else would he be doing? He's invested so much into it for the last 19 seasons and he won't walk away just because they've fallen on hard times.

There is no realistic alternative either and while Eddie Brennan might seem to be groomed for the job in some quarters - many have said that Cody nominated him as a potential successor - he got a rude awakening with the U-21 side last year against Westmeath and is still only learning his craft.

James McGarry is involved in the backroom team and is a well-respected coach, but if you're looking for someone to bring them back to the heights, Cody's pedigree shines brightest. Rumours of his demise are greatly exaggerated in my view. He has often rejigged the backroom team, even after winning, and I'd be surprised if a fresh face isn't brought in.

The Kilkenny public realise that he's had a great innings with this team and when you're trying to replace the likes of Henry Shefflin, Jackie Tyrrell and Tommy Walsh - you could go on and on - the same calibre will never be there.

I haven't heard a word of discontent in Kilkenny, be it from players or supporters. I was in the Horse and Jockey on Saturday night and everyone was just saying 'sure he's won so much' and there wasn't a thing said against the team after they died with their boots on.

Supporters were even referring to last year when they felt blessed to get out of Croke Park and Thurles alive against the Déise, but the cracks are papered over when you win and this is a long time coming.

The days when they had teams beaten in the first-half won't happen again for a long time as they don't have the same depth in attack. It'll take time to regroup, but Cody will relish the challenge.

They have a good minor team, good U-21s and picking up those two Leinster titles were the most important games in the last week for Kilkenny. We all know they've slipped, but with the likes of Richie Leahy coming through at senior level, they'll be back.

Who else is better than Brian to revitalise them? Kilkenny chairman Ned Quinn has always been in the background during Cody's reign and he'd love for him to stay on, groom someone for the top job and get them challenging for All-Irelands again before he goes.

The only ones to benefit if Cody leaves would be the opposition - he just has that aura about him.

I met Dan Shanahan after the game and he said when Cody came in to their dressing-room you could hear a pin drop. "The words he said would make the hairs stand on your neck," said Dan, and Cody got a standing ovation from the Waterford players, which tells you the esteem he's held in.

Kilkenny were beaten by a top team and it's crazy to think that people had been calling for Derek McGrath's head. If I was on the Waterford board I wouldn't let him go anywhere; he's done a fantastic job. They're dining at the top table, they haven't eaten the fruit just yet, but they're getting there.

Waterford will only realise what they have when he's gone and beating Kilkenny and getting that hoodoo off their back is a huge lift.

Other teams won't admit it publicly, but Kilkenny being knocked out is as good as a month's training. It gives every team a boost.

Cody won't take that lying down.

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