Tuesday 24 April 2018

Cody's work ethic reminds us of what we used to be

Tommy Conlon

Just wondering in passing if down in Tipperary they still consider it the Home of Hurling -- or have they decided to do the decent thing and hand the title over to Kilkenny?

The Cats, after all, sit proudly atop the roll of honour for senior All-Ireland championships with 32, compared to Tipp's piffling 25. They lead the way in minor and under 21 All-Irelands too. It's a clean sweep, and it's not going to change any time soon: they are set to dominate the game for the rest of the century at least. In fact, they have built an empire that will last a thousand years.

So we would advise Tipp to get out while they're still -- not ahead, obviously, but just a bit behind. In another 20 years they will have disappeared into Kilkenny's rear view mirror and won't be seen for dust.

It could start to get embarrassing -- better to bite the bullet and hand over the road signs now. There could be a nice ceremony involving mayors and assorted dignitaries, with a Kilkenny spray painter on hand to cover the old blue-and-yellow livery with a fresh coat of black and amber.

Eddie Keher and DJ Carey would be ready with a sledgehammer each to plant the sign, perhaps at a prominent roundabout on the road into Kilkenny city. Yes, it might be a painful experience for the Tipp citizenry, seeing every blow of the sledgehammer not so much as driving a stake into the ground, but through the heart.

But all good things must come to an end, and there could be no better day to get the ceremony out of the way than Monday, September 6, 2010. Coincidentally, that would be the day after Kilkenny smashed Tipp to seal the famous five-in-a-row and cement their status as kings of the castle.

Some Tipp folk might consider the timing a tad insensitive -- but they would have to concede it would be highly symbolic and appropriate. What's more, they would come to see it, in the fullness of time, as a good thing, a monkey off the back; it would relieve the pressure. A Tipp man could then walk safely into Langton's without getting a slagging about his delusions of grandeur. In fact, they might even buy him a pint, admittedly more out of sympathy than anything else.

And it wouldn't be the end of the world -- they'd still have the coursing, for example. And Bulmers for the large bottles too. Life would go on. And into every life a little humility, like rain, must fall.

But not too much, in the case of Tipperary, for it has been a rich source of entertainment over the years to see their supporters engage in bragging rights, not just after the winning of big games, but before them too, when a ball has yet to be pucked. Especially before them, when there is the prospect of a good kick up the arse looming; which, if it materialises, is always good for a bit of comedy. Ah yes, the long faces on the long road back to the home of hurling.

But still, the crack and the colour is good when the Tipp crowd is around. You wouldn't want to see them turn into Kilkenny, where emotions either in victory or defeat seem to run the entire gamut from A to B. And that's just the players.

It's strange how one county revels in hubris while another, a neighbouring county with whom it shares a border, has turned modesty into an art form. The more modest one, of course, being the more successful.

And that's not going to change as long as Brian Cody is in charge. If Cody has a sense of humour, he keeps it well hidden. There is a fanatical streak in his love for hurling; it all seems a bit joyless. His post-match television interview with Marty Morrissey after last year's final was indicative. Morrissey asked him about the penalty that turned the game on its head and Cody immediately took umbrage, as if it were an affront to his authority. It was a legitimate question; the manager had just won a phenomenal fourth title in a row; he showed little grace in dealing with it.

But for all that, it could be said that Cody has made an important contribution, not just to hurling, but to Irish society, if people were prepared to listen and learn. For he represents

ideals which were marginalised and neglected during the gold rush that was the era of the Celtic Tiger. The same words keep cropping up when he speaks, over and over: "honesty", "work" and "genuineness".

His iron insistence on these qualities in his players, every time they train, every time they play, has produced a team that embodies these principles. Against the tidal wave of bankers, developers, politicians, spin doctors and dumb celebrities, those values have shone like a lighthouse.

When a team has won so much, it is natural, almost inevitable, that there will be a deviation, a slippage from the standard. Even if they were the most grounded players in the world, the sheer glut of success alone should diminish the appetite for the hard slog that comes with doing it all again.

And yet this Kilkenny team has done it again, and again and again. If the place isn't the home of hurling, it's surely the heart of it.

thecouch@independent.ie

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