Monday 26 February 2018

'It was almost as if, suddenly, had we'd lost on Sunday, the other All-Irelands wouldn't have counted'

MAINTAINING possession at all costs and stopping Tipperary from creating goal chances were the key tactics in Kilkenny's latest phenomenal All-Ireland final display.

But manager Brian Cody bristled yesterday at the notion that this was the first time his team had employed such a tightly structured game plan.

"I think it is a bit of a myth to say we played clever, intelligent hurling for the first time in our careers, as if we are this sort of robotic team," he said.

"We are not big into tactics because we have a superbly talented bunch of players who instinctively know how to play and how to get the best out of each other, so we don't burden them with tactics."

Yet Cody admitted that the lessons the Cats learnt this year, especially from the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford, helped focus their minds and sharpen their appetite ahead of their big 'unification bout' with Tipperary.

And it emerged that a training weekend at Carton House Hotel in the wake of that semi-final provided the Cats with the perfect hideaway from which to hatch their plan to dethrone Tipp and win their fifth All-Ireland in six years.

Cody confirmed that Jackie Tyrrell and Noel Hickey were both given specific man-marking jobs on Lar Corbett and Eoin Kelly respectively.

"The rest of the backs were as they were; they were being dragged and being pushed but they were prepared to do what had to be done to do their job," he said, describing it as the best defensive performance of his 13-year reign.

"We did speak about the importance of keeping possession and using possession well. We were definitely wayward against Waterford, especially in the last 15-20 minutes when the game was being played out really; we were wayward and careless.

"Tipperary have certain players who have pace and are good finishers so we had to look at that and I think we did a good job with it.

"But (the post-All-Ireland analysis), it sounds as if suddenly Kilkenny discovered a clever way to play attacking hurling. We certainly never claimed to have invented it, like maybe other people might have done before."

Cody admitted that Kilkenny's training trip to Carton House, the plush Maynooth resort which has hosted the likes of Real Madrid and the Irish rugby team, played a big part in the build-up.

"It was just a one-night (stay) and it wasn't the first time we were there, it's not as if we're stuck in a time warp down in Kilkenny," he said.


"It's a super venue, they have a massive pitch and it gave us an opportunity to spend some time together, essentially a day and a half of work, bits of meetings, and on-field stuff.

"It was very effective and worthwhile and a lot of things came together.

"The whole thing was very relaxed. We were all very comfortable in the knowledge that everybody knew exactly what he was going to Croke Park to do."

Cody reiterated that last Sunday's victory was the most satisfying of the magnificent eight Kilkenny have won in his 13 years in charge and, like many of his players, compared it favourably to their 2006 victory.

"In 2006 we were playing a super team in Cork (who were) going for a three-in-a-row," he said.

"They were on this massive roll and had this particular way of playing and we'd been out of it for two years. The implementation of what we went out to do that day was superb by the players and you'd imagine we couldn't touch that again."

But he felt that was exactly what his players did against another super team last weekend and it was extra special because it was their third meeting in a row.

"Last year Tipp beat us, the previous year we'd won it and since that, in their wisdom, some people have even suggested we were kind of lucky to win it (in '09), which is nuts to me," Cody exclaimed.

"It was almost as if, suddenly, had we'd lost on Sunday, it was as if we'd never have won any of them.

"We were written off by several people after the league final so to come back and take on the Tipperary team, a super team, and to limit them in the way we did and to play the way we did was superb."

He paid tribute to several of his players yesterday, not least Tyrrell, whom he said sacrificed his natural attacking instincts to do such a brilliant and unselfish marking job on Corbett.

And he also had special praise for veteran flier Eddie Brennan, who had "really stepped forward in training over the last month" for the Cats.

"Eddie didn't have a great year last year, the final didn't go great for him and he was being written off.

"I spoke to him and he was saying, 'no way am I finishing, I'm going back and I'm going to fight like a dog to get my place and if I don't I'll be on the panel and I'll work and work and if I hurl for two minutes or an hour, I'm there to drive this thing forward'."

As usual Cody was non-committal about his future, saying it would be some time before he makes a decision.

Asked if some of his team's veterans, like Brennan, might now retire he said: "I wouldn't think so because the crazy thing about someone like Eddie is he's lost none of his pace. That's a gift.

"Everyone thinks of 'Fast Eddie'. He's 32 now or whatever, but that run to set up Richie Hogan's goal, that was electric, phenomenal. You can't buy that."

Irish Independent

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