By Jackie Cahill
Kilkenny's former All-Ireland winning captain Eddie O’Connor says the Cats need a “major shake-up” to revive past glories – and has called for DJ Carey to be installed as senior team manager, with Brian Cody moving “upstairs” to become county board chairman.
O’Connor, who won Celtic crosses in 1992 and 1993, the latter year as skipper, has also revealed that he snubbed the recent Jubilee team celebrations at Croke Park in protest at the GAA’s broadcast deal with Sky Sports.
In a wide-ranging observation of Kilkenny, O’Connor insists that the U21s under-performed in this year’s championship, despite reaching a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland final.
He says that manager Eddie Brennan “did his best” – but insists that “you can’t be an expert in punditry and do inter-county management too.”
But it’s O’Connor’s assertion that Cody should step aside and move into administration that’s sure to set tongues wagging on Noreside.
The Glenmore man said: “A major shake-up is needed, with Brian Cody moving upstairs and DJ coming in as team manager.
“A lot of players do need a change but more so at county board level, where Brian would be a huge ambassador and who better to lead from the front as chairman?
“Far be it from me to tell Brian Cody what to do but I feel it’s time for the great man to move upstairs, to take over as chairman of the Kilkenny county board, where leadership is lacking.
“They need a figure like Brian at the helm to take them forward.”
Cody was recently appointed as Kilkenny senior team manager for a 20th season – but O’Connor added: “I’d love to see my former playing colleague DJ in a management capacity.
“That would be my dream team – the greatest manager of all time running the county board and the greatest player of all time managing the hurlers.
“From speaking to a number of players and supporters around the county, publicly they don’t look for change but privately, the vast majority would like to see a change.
“It’s the Kilkenny county board that leave a lot to be desired. A number of people running the board and stuck in a time-warp and institutionalised.
“I’ll always be indebted to Brian but Sean Kelly was a great cyclist and Barry McGuigan was a great boxer – time waits for no man but it’s critical that Brian oversees a transitional period in the county. Leadership is badly wanted in the county board and it’s not there at the moment.”
O’Connor also confirmed that he was not present at Croke Park when Kilkenny’s 1992 All-Ireland winners were honoured before the recent final between Galway and Waterford.
When asked about the snub, O’Connor explained: “The GAA is gone too commercialised – it’s sold its soul.
“They’re hypocrites – they’re all about the GAA and amateurism and grass-roots and yet they turned their backs on elderly people who helped build the GAA.
“All games should be compulsory on terrestrial TV and I call on the Minster for Sport (Shane Ross) to intervene and make every game next year free to air.
“If the Minster doesn’t, county managers and teams must make the stand themselves.
“I was contacted by Croke Park and I blatantly refused to go because of the way the GAA is going – and the lack of respect for the people that have built the Association.”
On Kilkenny’s performances at U21 level this year, and Brennan’s management of the team, O’Connor had plenty to say.
He added: “There’s a lot of untapped talent within the county but for one reason or another, the U21s did not do themselves justice last Saturday night.
“While Eddie did his best, and I have the utmost respect for him, maybe he wasn’t the right person for the job.
“In this day and age, I don’t think you can be an expert in punditry and do inter-county management too.
“It’s a full-time job and trying to combine both doesn’t work.
“A number of players didn’t fulfil their potential and rumour has it that there was a lack of discipline in the U21 set-up.
“While I agree to an extent that Kilkenny hurling is in a bit of a transitional period, with Cody at the helm in the county board and DJ brought in as hurling manager, good times would be around the corner.”