'I wish Association would tell us what the hell is going on'
The GAA's most successful manager has spoken out about what he feels is the growing level of "negativity" about Gaelic games that is coming from within the Association itself.
Brian Cody spoke in the context of the sideline restrictions that limits the number of team officials to just five, down from 12 in recent years, and he also reiterated his desire for the rules relating to the officiating of hurling not to be tampered with.
Cody is particularly perplexed about the sideline restrictions which have been in force since the start of this season's league campaign.
"It is, of course, going to impact on us and (it is) something I would be massively disappointed with," he said in Nowlan Park at the announcement of a further three-year extension of Glanbia's sponsorship of Kilkenny GAA.
"What we are talking about here is that people are saying that we have to 'clean up the sideline.'
"It's not as if there has been massive problems in our Association. Where has it all gone wrong over the years?" he asked.
"I've never heard such negative comment from within the Association about the Association. I don't understand it.
"To say we're going to clean up the sideline. From what?
"We probably have the smallest number of people involved in any inter-county team as regards back-room members. We don't have all sorts of statisticians – and I'm not knocking anyone's set-up at all.
"We don't have a huge back-room service or people involved in the team. It's pretty straightforward. As our accounts will show, we don't put a huge strain on our County Board. Our finances are decent.
"It's a small number of people – Martin Fogarty is an integral part of that and we're being told that he is now banished to the stand. I don't know for what.
"Our doctor, Tadhg Crowley is steeped in the GAA, he too is deemed unworthy to be on the sideline."
The restrictions on numbers, voted in by Central Council, do not specify the breakdown of who can be on the sideline, as long as it is restricted to five.
"We keep reading about the Uachtaran saying he would prefer the rugby set-up and all the rest of it. Why? What's wrong with the GAA set-up?"
Cody claims it's impractical to have just two people servicing the needs of hydration and hurleys to a team on the day of a game.
"There are two hurley carriers. There are two now expected to run the pitch.
"Hurlers are going to need hurleys replaced in a game. Footballers don't need hurleys replaced in a game. The same number of people are going to have to cater for a hurler in a hurling match as a footballer in a football match?
"Every one of those hurlers will have at least three spare hurleys because it (a broken hurley) can happen. Anyone who plays club hurling knows that. So you have to look after 45 hurleys, three 15s. The hurley carrier has to look after water for the players, as well as all those hurleys on the sideline. And (they are) expected to travel the pitch if a hurley gets broken 60 or 70 yards away.
"It's going to cause much more messing, it's a bad, bad rule. It doesn't make sense to me. It's not catering for hurling. It's not catering for the players at all."
Cody admitted he couldn't understand the desire to mirror rugby with the imposition of number restrictions.
"If you watch a rugby match, as soon as there is a break in play with a penalty or a conversion, the whole place descends upon the pitch with drinks and all sorts of stuff coming through to the players. They stand beside and talk to the players. Everything goes ahead.
"It's as if we have some sort of invaders coming into a hurling match. I don't know why it's all happening."
Allied to the call by national referees' chairman Pat McEnaney for hurling referees to improve their standards in 2013 – following claims that only a quarter of red-card offences were penalised properly in last year's championship – and the possibility of a black card coming into hurling, Cody admits he can't understand why there seems to be a perpetual desire for change.
"We have this terrific game. Everyone will say it's the best game in the world and all the rest of it. If you go back and talk about the fantastic All-Irelands, go back the whole way before this Kilkenny team started, go back to the 1990s as well and the All-Ireland finals then.
"But suddenly some people in authority seem to think they (those games) are dirty and it has to be changed. I wish they would sit us down and say to us what the hell is going on, what is happening.
"Of course, all my wonderful friends in the media will come out and slam me, but, so be it, I don't care. I just don't understand it."
Cody said he would be open to sitting down with any refereeing group to discuss the contention that not enough red cards were shown in last year's championship.
"I've always spoken about the way referees are being pressurised. My thoughts haven't changed on those things, but I don't know whether eight more players should have been sent off or not," he said.
"Most years there was a meeting at the start of the year for managers, referees and Croke Park officials and I don't think that took place last year – I certainly wasn't invited to one.
"I have always gone to it and I would believe that you shouldn't talk afterwards if you didn't go to the meetings where rules were discussed.
"The talk before the All-Ireland final replay was that the drawn final was the first All-Ireland final that has been refereed properly for years. I couldn't figure out that one – it was a terrible slur on the performances of the referees in All-Ireland finals from whenever they were talking about."
Cody reiterated his view that a similar scope on hurling as the Football Review Committee have undertaken was not necessary.
"They are not the same games and I don't think that (groups similar to the FRC) should enter any hurling debate at all."
• The Kilkenny senior hurling team are hosting a 'family race day' in Gowran Park on Saturday, March 23. The Liam MacCarthy Cup will be on display and members of the team will be in attendance. Admission for adults is €10.