Saturday 24 August 2019

John Mullane: 'Limerick must beware as genius Cody has his Cats purring once again'

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Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile

John Mullane

The headline doing the rounds in last Monday's papers could easily have been: 'The master pulls off a master stroke as only the master can do'. Brian Cody having just illustrated his genius yet again.

Kilkenny's defeat of Cork will rank up there alongside anything else Cody has achieved in a glittering managerial career, one which shows no signs of slowing down despite being in his 21st season at the helm.

There would have been a wry smile across his face after pulling off a win against the odds last Sunday - and it's these type of victories that must keep the blood coursing through his veins to come back year after year.

Just when you think the Cody era might be on the wane, with the majority of people writing off the Cats and highlighting their limitations, they turn the table upside down in devastating fashion in Croke Park.

Much like the Wimbledon men's final, where people were urging Roger Federer to prevail because of his status as, probably, the greatest tennis player of them all, many GAA people across Ireland would love to see Cody do the unthinkable and win another All-Ireland title. And while others ask, 'how could you want Kilkenny to win a 37th All-Ireland title?', there's a part of me that loves the greatness attached to Cody and would love to see him pull another rabbit out of the hat, despite my being a man from Waterford city and the rivalry we have with our neighbours.

Kilkenny were 12/1 to win the All-Ireland before they met Cork. They are now 4/1 with the bookies fearful that Cody & Co could land the holy grail again and those odds tell you that it would rank as his greatest achievement to date.

Cody will relish trying to take history-chasing Limerick down. It's something he did to Cork in 2006, when they were eyeing three-in-a-row. And if they repeat the dominance they enjoyed against the Rebels, serious questions will be asked of hurling's Grand Slam winners.

Cody's adaptability down through the years has to be applauded and after taking some harsh lessons on the chin during their Leinster final defeat to Wexford, he got his calls spot on.

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Starting Richie Hogan and John Donnelly - both of whom came in from the cold - paid dividends, while moving Pádraig Walsh to corner-back helped curtail Alan Cadogan's influence.

Starting Conor Browne against a powerful Cork midfield also had the desired effect, while he got another 35 minutes into Cillian Buckley.

Firing in players who are mad for work - Walter Walsh, Bill Sheehan, Billy Ryan and James Maher - pushed them over the line, while the repositioning of Richie Leahy to midfield reaped rewards.

Kilkenny went back to suffocation mode and that's why it will be enthralling against Limerick, because it's out around that middle third where John Kiely's men break down the opposition. Cody will meet fire with fire and go to war in that sector.

It was like the Kilkenny of old the other day, convincingly winning the third quarter, or what I like to call 'Cody Time'.

How often have we seen them grab their opponents by the throat after half-time and leave them short of air? It was the Cats at their ruthless best. Cody's greatest asset has to be getting the maximum out of his players. All the talk before Cork was their over-reliance on TJ Reid and you can be sure other players were reminded of what was being said in public - and they delivered in spades.

You'll never hear Cody giving out about injuries, everything remains positive. It's not in his DNA and he instils in his players that once you put on the black and amber, maximum effort is given and they rarely let him down. I said last week that it's one thing firing a bullet and injuring them in Leinster but it's another thing altogether trying to kill their All-Ireland hopes - and Limerick know that better than most.

Kilkenny pushed the Treaty County's resolve to the limit 12 months ago in an absorbing All-Ireland quarter-final despite playing three energy-sapping weeks in a row. Did Cody complain? No, he just got on with it.

The general consensus is that Liam MacCarthy is Limerick's to lose and that Kilkenny are an easier option than Cork - but this plays into Cody's hands. And if they get a sniff of complacency, they'll pounce all over it.

After scoring 2-27, write Kilkenny off at your peril. If Limerick are to prevail, it will take one almighty effort, and as Galway found out last year it takes a huge toll to achieve back-to-back All-Irelands.

The three games against Kilkenny took a lot out of Galway in 2018, while this year they couldn't get motoring six days after beating the Cats and were dumped out of the Championship. That's the mark a Cody team leaves on you.

There are three things certain in life: death, taxes and when 15 Kilkenny men take to the field they will die for the cause. And the greatest manager of all will relish the opportunity to become No 1 again.

Irish Independent

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