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Rachel Wyse: Brian Cody's unrivalled passion is cornerstone of Cats' success

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Kilkenny manager Brian Cody extracts honest effort from every single one of his players. Photo:  Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody extracts honest effort from every single one of his players. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody extracts honest effort from every single one of his players. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Tomorrow they'll come from far and wide to worship. Men, women and children feverish with anticipation and all of the one church. Brought together by history, heritage and their love of a game.

Beforehand they will congregate in familiar places. Slaves to routines, yet content knowing their path. These are days to nourish a soul. Days hurling people live for. Days that create stories generations will be raised upon. This is the second Sunday in September, this is All-Ireland hurling final day and this has no equal.

Tomorrow morning the people of Tipperary and Kilkenny will once again know feelings no money can buy. As they ready themselves for a journey to Dublin their lot is a privileged one - the envy of hurling lovers throughout Ireland.

In a week where we have witnessed a great club of the soccer world spend millions in an effort to restore past glories, whatever their future brings it will never know the type of success which awaits one set of hurlers tomorrow afternoon.

All-Irelands aren't about contracts or endorsements. There is a purity that remains untouched. Something that is unquantifiable. Something that is indescribable. Any person who ever held a hurley knows the dream. To play and win in Croke Park on all Ireland final is the pinnacle.

Whatever twists and turns life has in store, the legacy of 70 minutes in Croke Park on that day won't ever be altered. And your own people never forget.

It's where reputations are made, heroes acclaimed and status defined. The journey for All-Ireland success is addictive. Like a hunger that can never be satisfied. Passed from generation to generation the quest never ends, the allure never fades.

Embodies

Brian Cody knows it well. He embodies such theories. In the past weeks I met the Kilkenny manger for the first time when he kindly consented to an interview which will be shown as part of the Sky Sports live coverage tomorrow.

I often wonder what drives Cody. Where the motivation comes from year after year, regardless of what's gone before. That insatiable willingness to volunteer so much of his life to a cause where dividends can't be counted, won't earn interest and won't change a lifestyle.

The answer probably has many layers. Answers that only those in Cody's family and immediate circle are privy to. But at the core is one fact - Brian Cody is a hurling man. A rather simplistic statement, I acknowledge, but one of great context in the case of Cody. He was born and reared in a hurling house: Cody's father was a long-serving chairman of James Stephens, known locally as 'The Village', and I sense the part GAA played in his life left a telling impression on his son.

Outside of family and his profession I believe nothing comes close to hurling in Brian Cody's life. Few people could ever relate to such a passion but then few people could ever do what Cody has done in his reign in Kilkenny.

His has been a passion that has never wavered. From his own playing days - when he had All-Ireland success at colleges, minor, U-21 and senior level - right through to the first of his nine Liam MacCarthy Cups as a manager in 2000, Cody's loyalty to the game never faltered.

He was a player at time when GAA didn't enjoy the fashionable status it now does. Now it maybe hard to comprehend such a day but there was a time when GAA and its members were the poor relations from the country.

Many people found the attractions of seemingly more socially acceptable games irresistible. Cody never fell under such a spell. His passion never diluted, his game has always been hurling.

And when his time finally comes to an end with Kilkenny I'm certain he won't be found in a TV studio analysing games, nor will he throw in his lot with a another county in return for inflated expenses.

He'll most likely be found stood in 'The Village' field, hands in pockets bellowing instructions to James Stephens' players as he drives them to achieve their maximum.

He was moulded under the influence of GAA people, grew up hearing stories about great hurlers of 'The Village' and Kilkenny and a passion became a way of life.

His dedication is for the right reasons. There is no ulterior agenda. No desire to self-promote or improve his lot. He is a man under the spell of a game and all that game represents.

Tangible rewards for his service to 'The Village' or Kilkenny would be insignificant in comparison to the inner satisfaction he derives from his achievements. It's genuine, it's pure and very real. And I sense it is reflected in his teams. There is a genuine spirit among his players. Whatever the outcome, his players go to the final whistle.

There is a drive that you sense emanates from Cody to those under his care. A passion that leaves no player in any doubt about the value of wearing a Kilkenny jersey and the importance of ensuring application is to every individual's limit.

Day in day out, year after year, Kilkenny have returned with different players different selectors, and Henry Shefflin aside, the only constant has been Brian Cody. It began in 2000 and 15 seasons later they are now on the brink of a 10th All-Ireland title in that period.

People may well say he has had great players at his disposal, and there is no denying that his reign did coincide with an era which produced hurlers of abilities sufficient to grace any period of the game.

And Kilkenny would have known success as a result with or without Brian Cody. But I suspect the success would not have been as regular or performances as consistent without Cody leading the charge.

He very seldom let his own standards drop, an example that wasn't lost on players. Would Henry Shefflin be playing tomorrow to win a 10th All-Ireland medal without Cody's influence over Kilkenny hurling? I believe not.

Honest

While they have been scarce, mistakes were made along the way. Cody hasn't got everything right. But whatever his flaws, his ability to extract honest effort from every single player is far greater force than any managerial weakness.

For Kilkenny's opposition tomorrow, honesty must be a starting point. Tipperary must meet and surpass Kilkenny's willingness to go to places where it hurts.

Eamon O'Shea and Tipperary must demonstrate that their need for Liam MacCarthy is as great as those in black and amber.

We know what's coming from Kilkenny; they will resemble a team trying to win their first.

After all, the man who watches on wouldn't have it any another way.

Irish Independent