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Cody's Top Cats

No 1: James McGarry (Bennettsbridge): He received a 'Dear James, thanks for your services' letter from Cody shortly after he took over as manager in late 1998 but circumstances changed quickly and McGarry was not only recalled to the squad but became first-choice 'keeper. It was a position he enjoyed until the end of 2006. Nominated seven times for an All Star, he never won an award, which remains a sore point in Kilkenny.

No 2: Michael Kavanagh (St Lachtain's)

The longest serving of all, having pre-dated the Cody era when featuring at No 5 as a 19-year-old in 1998.

Switched to right full-back in 2000, he enjoyed an outstanding decade up to and including the 2009 All-Ireland final where, among other things, he was a major contributor to Martin Comerford's late goal which ensured a Kilkenny win. A four-time All Star, he could still play a role as a sub.

No 3: Noel Hickey (Dunnamaggin)

Who were Kilkenny's full-backs pre-Hickey? It's so long ago that it's not easy to remember.

Actually, it was Canice Brennan (1999) and Pat O'Neill (1998-97) and Pat Dwyer before that.

JJ Delaney and John Tennyson deputised for Hickey at various times when he was ill and injured over the last decade but he always first-choice No 3 when fully fit.

A three-time All Star.

No 4: Jackie Tyrrell (James Stephens)

There are those who claim that centre-back is his best position but Cody would have known his fellow 'Village' clubmate since he was a kid so it's best to go with his assessment that left corner-back is the natural habitat for this powerful performer.

An intelligent reader of the game, he makes defending look so easy on his really good days. An All Star for the past four years.

No 5: Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan)

Still only 28 years old, he's pursuing an incredible ninth successive All Star award.

He holds the unique distinction of having won awards in the full-back, half-back and half-forward lines as well as at midfield and was Hurler of the Year in 2009.

Jimmy Finn (Tipperary) was right half-back on the Team of the Century, replaced by Brian Whelahan (Offaly) on the Team of the Millennium. Would Walsh now be first choice?

No 6: Peter Barry (James Stephens)

His last inter-county game was against Galway in the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final so he missed out on the four-in-a-row era.

Yet the fact that he's off the scene for six years shouldn't cloud the judgment of a man who moved from wing-back to centre-back and settled in comfortably, following in a long line of outstanding Kilkenny centre-backs. A three-time All Star.

No 7: JJ Delaney (Fenians)

It's a measure of his versatility that his five All Star awards were divided between wing-back (3) and full-back (2).

The demands are different but Delaney has such a flexible skill-set that he makes the transition look easy.

One of the most gifted stick men of his generation, he is guaranteed a place in Kilkenny's roll call of the greats.

Hurler of the Year in 2003.

No 8: James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick

(Ballyhale Shamrocks)

A triple All Star winner in 2006-07-08, he looked destined to become one of the really great midfielders in hurling history but his form has dipped over the last two years.

However, he's still only 26 years old so a second coming is quite possible. He certainly has the class, as he displayed in his early 20s with some wonderful performances. Young Hurler of the Year in 2006.

No 9: Derek Lyng (Emeralds)

When Kilkenny needed power, Lyng was very much the midfield generator. He made no great impact at underage level but when Brian Cody re-built the squad after the 2001 defeat by Galway, he had no hesitation in bringing in Lyng and, indeed, Martin Comerford, who hadn't shown as a minor or U-21 either. Both served the Kilkenny cause brilliantly for a long time. Lyng won two All Star awards.

No 10: Richie Power (Carrickshock)

Still only 25 years old, his best days could well be ahead of him, even if he already has packed a lot of high-powered action into his career.

Very much in Henry Shefflin's shadow on the free-taking front, it's an added string to his bow and comforting for Kilkenny to know they have such a reliable No 2 hit man from placed balls. He won his first All Star award at full-forward last year.

No 11: Henry Shefflin (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

He would be a certainty to get into the greatest hurling team of all time. But who would he supplant from the Millennium team forward line (Jimmy Langton, Mick Mackey, Christy Ring, Jimmy Doyle, Ray Cummins, Eddie Keher). Langton or Cummins perhaps? A nine-time All Star, Shefflin is a member of an exclusive clubs as a double Hurler of the Year winner (2002-2006).

No 12: Eoin Larkin

(James Stephens)

Hurler of the Year in 2008, he has scored 4-52 in 29 championship games and while that might seem like a low average, he is also very much a provider.

Like many of the top modern-day forwards, his flexible style enables him to play in a variety of positions, a talent which Kilkenny exploit to maximum effect.

An All Star winner in 2008-09, both at left half-forward.

No 13: Eddie Brennan (Graigue Ballycallan)

He has scored more goals than any other Kilkenny forward since his arrival on the scene in 2000, beating Henry Shefflin 26-24 on the green flag count off eight games less.

He has also scored 65 points, giving him an average of 3.04 points per game from open play in the championship. However, it's his goal-poaching instincts which have made him so valuable for so long. A four-time All Star.

No 14: Martin Comerford

(O'Loughlin Gaels)

Like Derek Lyng, he wasn't an underage protege but improved rapidly in his 20s and became a key figure in the attack for nine seasons. A noted goal scorer, his last strike in the championship was among the most important of all, coming late in the 2009 All-Ireland final against Tipperary. A three-time All Star winner.

No 15: DJ Carey

(Young Irelands)

He was nine years into his Kilkenny career when Cody took over for the 1999 season but he remained a central figure in the side until his departure at the end of 2005.

One of the all-time greats of the game, he holds nine All Stars awards. Shefflin's arrival in 1999 seriously curtailed his scoring rate as the Ballyhale youngster took over most of the free-taking duties but Carey still maintained is high goal rate.

Irish Independent