Cody: Cats only have eyes for rivals and not titles
A SMILE flickers across Brian Cody's face when he's asked the question the rest of the country have been whispering.
It's put to the Kilkenny manager that their demolition job on Dublin a fortnight ago was born out of a desire to silence the upstarts from the capital.
After all, the Dubs had the chutzpah to, publicly, give themselves a chance against the Cats -- to the point where some even started to give them credence. Anthony Daly's side carried with them the hopes of the neutrals who might have settled for seeing the Cats rattled. That, at least, would have been enough to sustain them as September draws ever closer.
"Not even remotely," asserted Cody when asked if Kilkenny wanted to 'put the Dubs back in their box'. "We just went out to win the game and we wouldn't even begin to think beyond that.
"They were the opposition, the prize was to get to the Leinster final -- it was either them or us and the object, as ever, is to win the game that's in front of us. If you think of doing anything beyond that you're deluding yourself.
"We played well on the night. It was a good performance and it had to be a good performance. As it turned out, it was a big victory. If we had played to a lesser standard it could have turned out differently.
"Plus, it was combined with a bad day from Dublin. It's very, very small things, thin margins -- call it what you like."
We should have known, though. Cork came into the league final all spring-heeled from their successful league campaign but left on their shields. Galway are next up in Sunday's Leinster final but their high-risk, high-yield brand of hurling looks a dangerous tactic.
"When people make a list of potential All-Ireland winners at the start of the year, they're on it," Cody insisted.
"You talk about Kilkenny and Dublin and everything else, but the last time Galway played Dublin in a knockout match, a competitive match, they were excellent and gave Dublin a serious beating that day.
"The last day against Offaly, they produced a whirlwind start. The game was over early on. People talk about Kilkenny killing off teams, Galway killed off Offaly completely in the early stages of that game.
"It was game over. They've brought that standard and are a top team. You look around and see the potential and young talent that is there.
"They're an outstanding team, even though they haven't won in the last few years."
The injuries continue to stack up for the Cats. There is good news in that Eoin Larkin is expected to be fit for Sunday's showdown but there are other concerns.
"JJ (Delaney) picked up a finger injury and obviously had to come off against Dublin and there's no certainty of his availability. (But) he's not ruled out," said Cody.
"Colin Fennelly picked up an injury that day and hasn't trained since. Paul Murphy took a heavy knock and hasn't trained. We have injuries but there's nobody ruled out -- but there are definitely a few players not ruled in yet."
More injuries could see Cody delve deeper into his panel but the new faces have impressed. Cillian Buckley, Paddy Hogan and Richie Doyle have slotted seamlessly into the team but Cody warned against putting too much pressure on those players.
"I wouldn't dream of comparing any 20-year-old to JJ," he retorted when asked if Doyle reminded him of JJ Delaney.
"JJ Delaney has already an excellent career and it would be very, very unfair. If people see those similarities, that's fine, but to suggest that any 20-year-old would be at the standard of JJ Delaney would be a dangerous tactic for anyone. He's still learning his trade."
If Doyle is learning his trade, Henry Shefflin is a master craftsman.
The Ballyhale star made his comeback in the win over Dublin after yet another serious injury, which Cody concedes might have helped him retain his appetite for hurling -- despite the constant stream of accolades that come his way.
"If anything can make you fresh it's an absence from the thing you like doing. There would be a benefit from that but he would have liked to be involved in some of those matches from a sharpening point of view.
"It was a huge game for Henry. It gave him the confidence to realise that he's back to where he needs to be.
"He has suffered, more than most, from injuries in the last number of years. The second time around with the cruciate he knew what to expect but the shoulder was a whole new ball game and it was particularly tricky as well. But he stuck at it and to have a championship game behind him is terrific for him."
Galway are next to test their mood. They have been well warned.