Friday 15 December 2017

'I've never asked the Kilkenny County Board to change club fixtures' - Cody

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody at yesterday’s Glanbia sponsorship announcement. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kilkenny boss Brian Cody at yesterday’s Glanbia sponsorship announcement. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Paudie Butler recently remarked that the GAA couldn't afford to have inter-county managers calling the shots with club fixture schedules and one of Brian Cody's secrets to success with Kilkenny over the past 18 seasons has been the value he places in an active and competitive Kilkenny club hurling scene.

Butler, a former National Director of Hurling, stated that "we cannot have inter-county managers saying willy nilly, no more club matches this year" and Cody, a huge advocate of the importance of maintaining an identity with your club, certainly bucks this trend.

Therefore, when club fixture calendars are being examined with county board officials it's a one-sided conversation, with the 11-time All-Ireland winning manager claiming he "never asked them to change it" and works around their plans rather than vice versa.

"They come to me and essentially they take out their fixture schedule for the year, show it to me, and I don't think I've ever asked them to change it. In fact, I haven't, I've never asked them to change it. I just say 'that's fine', and we work away. Once you know where you're going, that's it," Cody said yesterday.

Long before the Club Players Association (CPA) voiced their plans to "fix the fixtures", Cody outlined how change was needed to address the "imbalance" between club and county schedules, although he doesn't claim to have the answers.

"I've been saying for the past 10 years they should be looking at the overall calendar, but I've also said that I don't have the solution, that I don't have the time to find the solution. I'm kept going with what I do here looking after a county team.

"And I have an involvement with my club as well. I see the club as phenomenally important - the most important element of the whole Association, because county players are club players."

While admitting a common ground might be hard to find, Cody, who interestingly was a keen observer for Sunday night's epic Super Bowl, believes consultation between all stakeholders is the only way forward and feels there's no need for animosity between parties.

"I don't think anyone has the answer to it yet, because you can't look at it in isolation. There has to be a coming together of club officers and people with the best interests of the whole thing at heart," the 62-year-old said.

"And I think everybody does, there's no need for rancour. The situation has evolved over the years, and the ideal solution hasn't been found. People need to sit down and talk and look at all potential dates.

"Those at CPA level and in Croke Park, they have the overall interests of the thing at heart, but I hope the discussion isn't a knee-jerk one. It won't be sorted this year, or maybe next year, I don't know when, only that I hope it's the best for everybody."

Cody has yet to be contacted by the CPA for any input and while many will argue that Kilkenny's unprecedented success has been underpinned by focusing their attention on one code, the club scene is a well-oiled machine.

The Cats will be represented in both the junior and intermediate All-Ireland club hurling finals later this month - they top the roll of honour in both - while they are no strangers to senior success and lie second with 11 titles, including six for Ballyhale Shamrocks, who sit atop the list. Clearly, they are doing something right at club level.

Fresh off their Walsh Cup success on Sunday, Cody will now get his teeth stuck into the league, which opens this Sunday with a repeat of last year's thrilling All-Ireland semi-final saga against Waterford.

He will be down several regulars, however, with Michael Fennelly (Achilles), his brother Colin (nose), Ger Aylward (knee), Walter Walsh and Kevin Kelly (both hamstring injuries) and new captain Mark Bergin (ankle) all unavailable.

Aylward, an All Star two years ago, is "in good shape" and nearing a return from a cruciate injury and should feature soon.

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