Cody can't hide his joy after most satisfying victory of all
BRIAN Cody is by nature a stoical man who rarely betrays emotion and chooses his words carefully.
On each of the seven previous occasions that he has managed this extraordinary Kilkenny team to All-Ireland victory, he has repeated the same mantra, but yesterday was clearly something special and not even he could hide it.
"Winning an All-Ireland final on any given day is a great feeling. I always say the present one is the best because it is the only one I can feel right now.
"But, if I'm being honest, this is by far our best achievement without a shadow of a doubt, absolutely phenomenally satisfying," Cody admitted of an epic victory after what had been billed as the Cats' 'unification bout' with Tipperary.
"For the past five years, we have been coming into All-Ireland finals expected to win them, favourites with bookies and yourselves (the media)," he expounded.
"It was very much the reverse this year. Tipperary were the champions and deservedly so, and we were questioned very, very much, whether the thing was over for us.
"We were in the very opposite place last year. We had just lost it and there is just a complete world of difference between things and it's a genuinely terrific achievement to have won, a supreme feeling for us."
Losing last year, and being doubted and criticised after the league final loss to Dublin, had clearly infuriated the Cats and their manager, who revealed that he sensed beforehand that his players were going to play out of their skins.
"I was absolutely certain that we were going to perform," Cody said. "You can see it, you can smell it almost! You know when the resolve and the attitude and determination is right.
"It wasn't just a question of closing down and tackling and hunting in packs," he added.
"That was obviously a massive, phenomenal part of it but I think we hurled with our heads and our brain. We threw the ball around and we hurled for each other.
"We fought like hell to win the ball and when we won it, we used it very well," he noted, admitting that "huge thought" had gone into the individual match-ups that limited Tipperary's starting forwards to just three points from play.
The players themselves admitted that last year's final defeat by Tipp was their prime motivation.
"We bottled the hurt from last year and brought it with us," Richie Power said.
"We said before the game that we'd been waiting 12 months for this and we have been, it's true. We knew we had a point to prove and thankfully we have.
"We prepared as well as we ever have for an All-Ireland; the lads had us in tip-top shape, we were very fresh," Power added.
And the Carrickshock star said they learned valuable lessons from their semi-final against Waterford.
"We hit 17 wides that day and we really talked about that in training, just drilled it into each other, that, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who scores, once you're ahead at the final whistle.
"I think the forwards threw the ball around great today, and gave it to the lad in the best position," he said.
Power also gave huge credit to Kilkenny's defence and even the quiet man of that awesome unit, Noel Hickey, admitted that his eighth All-Ireland medal was special.
"They always are when you come back. This time last year, we were in the dressing-room there and we were just sick," Hickey said.
"Any clips of last year's All-Ireland I saw on the television over the winter, you'd be embarrassed nearly looking at it, so it was great to get back to winning ways."
The 30-year-old Dunamaggin farmer was one of those whose "legs" were questioned beforehand, but his performance against Eoin Kelly proved that to be nonsense, even though he insisted it was a team effort.
"We all controlled the wheel. Every one of us to a man said we'd take on our men today and it worked okay. The one goal chance they got, they got a goal off it, but they never really threatened the goal after that."
One player who was remarkably calm afterwards was 22-year-old Paul Murphy who proved as cool off the pitch as he did on it after turning in a phenomenally accomplished performance for a first-time senior finalist.
"You're just constantly running. I think the only break we got was, unfortunately, when the referee got a slap on the nose!" he said of the frenetic first quarter.
Of Kilkenny's big marking job on Tipp's famous goal machine, he said: "The attitude was, if you're good enough to start, you're good enough to mark them.
"The idea was to get in beside them and try and keep the ball away from them, you just had to burst yourself to get out there and get in the way. It was a little more calm on the pitch than maybe it looks from the stand, you can hear the lads, you're still talking," Murphy said of his baptism of fire.
"It's an All-Ireland final, there's added nerves, there's an 80,000 crowd and millions watching it all over the world, but when you're out there, it's the same ball, it's the same pitch as any other time. You just have to get on with it really."