Friday 25 May 2018

Genius of Brian Cody has manifested best on back of second chance

Kilkenny's replay record helped by courage of manager's convictions

‘We’ll meet again’ – Waterford’s Derek McGrath shakes hands with Kilkenny manager Brian Cody on Sunday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
‘We’ll meet again’ – Waterford’s Derek McGrath shakes hands with Kilkenny manager Brian Cody on Sunday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Some of Brian Cody's greatest work as greatest GAA manager of all-time has been in that window of opportunity between the four out of five replays that Kilkenny have won on his watch.

The indomitable spirit built up over 18 seasons now will be their greatest legacy when the wheels finally stop turning and that much was in evidence once again on Sunday when they found a way to rein in a Waterford team that was threatening to gallop out of sight.

But no manager absorbs lessons and redraws a battle plan quite like Cody. The list of triumphs on that front speak for themselves, the courage of real conviction coming easily to him.


Plucking Walter Walsh from relative obscurity for the 2012 All-Ireland final replay is the headline act for replays but there was also Cillian Buckley's restoration and Richie Hogan's posting to full-forward to make significant differences second time around, especially after Hogan's difficulties at midfield the first day.

Two years later, for the All-Ireland final replay against Tipperary, Cody thrust Kieran Joyce into the thick of things at centre-back to pick up Patrick 'Bonner' Maher, having not used him at any stage for the previous four games and that too was an inspired choice as Maher was effectively shut out.

In between, a six-day turnaround against Galway for a drawn Leinster semi-final was put to good use, Padraig Walsh's deployment at centre-forward reaping the dividends.

Even in two league finals that went to extra-time against Tiperary in 2009 and 2014 and their thrilling 2013 qualifier against Waterford their corrective surgery has almost always been a success.

Only Anthony Daly's Dublin turned them over in the 2013 Leinster semi-final replay in O'Moore Park, Daly gaining a measure of revenge for the All-Ireland quarter-final replay defeat nine years earlier when he was manager of his native Clare.

Former Galway manager Anthony Cunningham has had first hand experience of the Kilkenny replay effect on two occasions and says it's inevitable Waterford will feel a sense of "deflation."

"It has to be there because they are champions for so long. They've been so good for so long. They are the pinnacle," reflects Cunningham.

"It was similar with Kerry footballers in their heyday with the real top teams. You feel like you throw everything at it and you come so close. No matter what people say Waterford will be deflated to a degree."

That said, Cunningham senses a wavering in the Kilkenny legs that Waterford may just be able to exploit if they can deal with the psychological barrier.

"The one thing in their favour is the six-day turnaround. They're younger, they're fitter. Kilkenny look like they're ageing a bit," reasons the ex-Galway supremo. "I don't think their panel or their goal threat was as good as it was.

"In 2014 we played them the second day and they really went for the jugular. They struck for two goals quickly and put the game out of reach. I haven't seen that happening this year.

"Definitely the miles are visible. Tiredness is a factor for them. In some of the replays before they tossed in two or three new players, they've been able to do that. But I don't think they have the players to do that now to the same extent."

What stands out for Cunningham most with Kilkenny in replays is their deployment of players in completely different positions. This is something Waterford have to be prepared for," he cautioned.

"Waterford can't play the same way or put the same guys on the same opponents because Kilkenny won't do that," he says.

"Kilkenny will put a different player on Austin Gleeson. They'll really mark him a lot tighter. Their forwards will rotate more. Waterford are going to have to plan for Richie Hogan and they'll move him somewhere else.

"That's the one thing they have, TJ Reid and Hogan in particular, even Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin, they can play in different positions.

"Walter Walsh did that as well the second day (All-Ireland final), they popped him into a different position, they can do that. I wouldn't be surprised to see Walter Walsh on Noel Connors this time for instance."

The expectancy is that Kilkenny will draw up new plans to put the shackles on Austin Gleeson and Cunningham sees Buckley as a potential shadow for him to counter his outstanding ability in the air.

Kilkenny's championship replays under Cody

2004 All-Ireland q/f

Kilkenny 1-11, Clare 0-9

Clare unveiled a sweeper in the drawn game but Kilkenny were better prepared and prevailed despite a nasty eye injury sustained by Henry Shefflin.

2012 All-Ireland final

Kilkenny 3-22, Galway 3-11

Galway were well in this game until the final quarter when Kilkenny eased away, debutant Walter Walsh stealing the show by bagging 1-3.

2013 Leinster semi-final

Dublin 1-16, Kilkenny 0-16

"Will we ever bate ye," Anthony Daly asked Brian Cody after the drawn game. Six days later they had as a difficult season for Kilkenny beckoned.

2014 Leinster semi-final

Kilkenny 3-19, Galway 1-17

An early goal blitz set the tone in Tullamore, with TJ Reid hitting 2-11.

2014 All-Ireland final

Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 2-14

A greater success than the scoreline suggests as the recall of Kieran Joyce and goalscorer John Power came up trumps. Kilkenny set different terms.

Irish Independent

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