Friday 15 December 2017

Martin Breheny: The lack of top Cats is a puzzle

Why such lack of interest in Kilkenny men for big jobs elsewhere?

Brian Cody took charge in 1999 yet just one Kilkenny man has managed a major rival since the Millennium. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Brian Cody took charge in 1999 yet just one Kilkenny man has managed a major rival since the Millennium. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Kilkenny 1; Others 93. In a week when Brian Cody signed up for a 19th season with Kilkenny, nothing encapsulates the longevity of his remarkable tenure more than a managerial differential of 92 with other counties.

While he has been presiding over Kilkenny since the start of 1999, Kilkenny's 11 main rivals have had a total of 88 managements, a list that will be extended by five when John Kiely (Limerick), Davy Fitzgerald (Wexford), Donal Moloney/Gerry O'Connor (Clare), Kevin Ryan (Offaly) and Eamonn Kelly (Laois) begin official business in January.

It averages almost 8.5 per county, based on Limerick and Laois (11 each), Offaly (10), Cork and Antrim (9 each), Tipperary, Wexford and Clare (8 each), Galway and Dublin (7 each) and Waterford (5).


All this time, Cody has been patrolling the Kilkenny sideline, leaving anyone under the age of 25 barely able to recall a time when he wasn't in a charge.

With so many titles secured and so much history made, nobody even thinks of Kilkenny without Cody, so the question of who would replace him if he stepped away attracts little attention.

That brings an intriguing extension to an enduring presence. With Cody continuing the adventure with the same sense of determination, enthusiasm and fight he brought to it in 1999, would-be Kilkenny managers must wait patiently.

In the circumstances, you would expect several of them to be managing elsewhere. After all, Kilkenny is the most successful hurling county, which should make it attractive for others to see if these former players' management skills match their playing prowess.

For some reason, it hasn't happened. The cross-county trade continues to thrive elsewhere but has largely by-passed Kilkenny, who have exported far fewer managers than many of their less successful rivals.

Other than Kevin Fennelly, who managed Dublin in 2001-02, no Kilkenny man has been in charge of another county from the higher end of the market since the turn of the Millennium. Other than that, Brendan Fennelly spent a year with Laois in 2011, Michael Walsh managed Carlow early in the new Millennium and Andy Comerford had a spell with Kildare.

Quite why Kilkenny haven't had a bigger presence on the managerial circuit is hard to fathom, especially since Tipperary, Cork, Clare and Offaly have been so active on the export trail.

'Babs' Keating, Len Gaynor, Colm Bonnar, John McIntyre, Fr Tom Fogarty, Dinny Cahill, Paudie Butler and Eamonn Kelly are among the Tipperary men who managed elsewhere.

Gerald McCarthy, Justin McCarthy, Donal O'Grady, John Allen, Ger Cunningham, Teddy McCarthy and Gerry Wallace all flew the Cork flag in other counties, while Anthony Daly, Davy Fitzgerald, Ger Loughnane, Ollie Baker and Mike McNamara did likewise for Clare.


Pat Delaney, Joachim Kelly, Padraig Horan, Damien Fox, Pad Joe Whelahan, Johnny Dooley and Kevin Martin were among the Offaly men who crossed borders.

Yet, while Offaly are big exporters they are even bigger importers, having had nine outsiders over the last 30 years - scarcely a vote of confidence in their own.

Waterford, Wexford, Galway, Dublin, Limerick and Offaly are among the higher-end counties who have appointed outside managers over the years, yet with the exception of Kevin Fennelly, no Kilkenny man was head-hunted.

It really is all rather strange, especially since Kilkenny have so many All-Ireland winners who worked under Cody, giving them a detailed insight into his means and methods.

The contrast between Kilkenny hurling and Kerry football couldn't be more marked.

The Kingdom have been the biggest exporters of football managers, including Mick O'Dwyer, Páidí Ó Sé, John O'Keeffe, Mickey Ned O'Sullivan, Liam Kearns, John Evans, Jack O'Shea, Tomás Ó Flatharta, John Kennedy and Donie Buckley.

Presumably, it's down to Kerry's success, adding further to the mystery of why Kilkenny men aren't equally in demand in hurling. Any answers out there?

Read more: Cody keeps faith with backroom team as he returns for 19th season at Cats helm

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport