Friday 13 December 2019

John Mullane: Even when he's not there, Cody rules with an iron fist

Brian Cody's single-minded focus has been one of the main reasons for Kilkenny's success. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Brian Cody's single-minded focus has been one of the main reasons for Kilkenny's success. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

John Mullane

Five days after the All-Ireland final, I was given another glimpse into the psyche of Brian Cody.

The Kilkenny manager wasn't even present but his influence was still brought to bear on a gig in Dublin to celebrate the best 15 players of the last 15 years.

It was an honour to be included on the team, but the Kilkenny players chosen were absent and that was a pity.

Liberty Insurance and Today FM went out of their way to promote this event and to put on a fine spread.

I don't think an hour or two out of their time would have been any harm, but that's the Kilkenny way under Cody.

His single-minded focus and refusal to be distracted by external influences is one of the main reasons why Kilkenny have been so successful over the years.

I still felt that he could have made an exception in this case and allowed the Kilkenny players, including current stars Jackie Tyrrell, JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh and Henry Shefflin to be present.

But who am I to argue against Cody and his methods, which have helped the Cats to stay at the top for over a decade?

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His preparations for the replay began immediately after the final whistle signalled the end of a pulsating first fixture against Tipperary. The Kilkenny team had a meal at the CityWest Hotel, but went home that night.

Relaxed

Tipperary, in contrast, had their planned banquet and a few drinks.

It reminded me of Clare last year when Davy Fitzgerald allowed his players to have a few pints after the drawn match with Cork, which would be very unlike Davy normally.

I'm not saying that allowing his players to let their hair down that night was a factor in winning the replay, but it surely helped to feed into a relaxed environment and Clare played with real abandon in the replay.

Tipp whipped up the perfect storm right from the start in the drawn match, with Seamus Callanan, Lar Corbett, 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer and Noel McGrath all getting on the scoresheet early.

To get a score early in an All-Ireland final can really set a player up for the remainder of the game and that's what it did for Tipperary.

They went on to score 1-28 and those 29 scores were probably the maximum of their capacity on the day.

The problem was that it wasn't good enough to win the game and the burning question now is can they come with a big performance like that again?

I think they can.

They have the belief in themselves now that they can win this All-Ireland.

The other big question mark hanging over them was that they didn't have the stomach for the battle against this Kilkenny team but they emphatically put that one to bed.

Tipp are the one team in the country who can open up this Kilkenny defence with relative ease.

They do to Kilkenny what Kilkenny do to other teams - they think goals and they're able to create goals.

I might sound like a broken record on this one, but I think Tipp should start Michael Cahill next Saturday.

Look what he brought to the table when he came on a fortnight ago and I'm sure that Eamon O'Shea has considered Cahill for a man-marking role on Richie Hogan.

If Hogan moves to centre-forward from the start, what will Tipperary do? Will Brendan Maher hold centre-back or would they deploy somebody like Cahill to follow him?

I know what I'd do because Hogan's switch to the centre caused massive problems for Tipp the last day.

Kilkenny also need to be clever in defence because they went the same way as they did in the 2011 final, their defenders opting to go with their men wherever they roamed.

Clever

That creates problems because Tipp looked to drag their opponents out of position and expose a lack of pace in that Kilkenny defence.

For example, there was a stage in the first half when centre-back Brian Hogan was effectively playing as a corner-back for the best part of five minutes, and looking very uncomfortable.

Many people say that Kilkenny's best defender this year has been Paul Murphy but I disagree.

I think Cillian Buckley has been the pick of that back six by a long distance and I'd consider Buckley for a man-marking job on Lar Corbett, with Murphy picking up the 'Bonner' Maher.

Cody also has to consider whether or not to start Tommy Walsh or Henry Shefflin.

I couldn't understand the use of Shefflin in the first game.

What was Henry going to do in those last three minutes?

The right time to spring him would have been after 45 or 50 minutes.

But if the Fennelly brothers Michael and Colin fire, Cody may not need to call for Henry.

Brian Gavin has been appointed as referee for the replay and I'm sure he'll do a fine job.

But it was disappointing to see Kilkenny piling the pressure on Barry Kelly before the drawn match. I hope there's no repeat this time.

I don't think that Kilkenny need to resort to that kind of stuff because they have this ability to extract maximum output from the spells when they get on top.

And that's one of the reasons why I'm sticking with Kilkenny to get the job done at the second attempt.

Collins will be the biggest loser in Clare dual debate

I find it very strange that Podge Collins has opted to play football only for Clare in 2015.

The next few years could possibly be the greatest in the history of Clare hurling and Collins has made the wrong call.

I just feel that he owes Clare hurling and his team-mates something after being sent off against Wexford in the qualifiers.

We saw the pictures of him in the dugout and he was very disappointed but the best way to get that out of the system is to come back again the next year and be successful.

When I was sent off in the 2004 Munster final, I vowed to give something back to Waterford.

And I believe that Collins should have rolled up his sleeves, committed to the hurlers and endeavoured to make amends.

Davy Fitzgerald came out with a statement during the week that Collins playing both codes impacted negatively on the hurlers this year.

And I agree with him because it's not possible to play the two at the highest level.

Problems

If you're Davy Fitzgerald and Podge has played a Gaelic football match on the Sunday before a heavy training week, that creates obvious problems.

Davy could have a hurling session designed for the Tuesday night, where he's asking his players to go all out, but Podge is still trying to recover from the football on the Sunday.

Of course I realise that there is a tight, natural bond between Podge and his father Colm, who is manager of the footballers.

I believe that Podge has a great love for Gaelic football but if it comes down to playing football for one of your family members, or hurling for a group of lads and a management team that you owe something to, there should only be one winner.

And that should be to go back next year and try to put the record straight. Clare's hurlers will be right up there in 2015 and that's what makes this decision even more difficult to comprehend.

Sadly, Podge Collins looks set to be the real loser in all of this.

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