Brian Cody has declared himself "amazed" at the decision by referee James Owen to send Richie Hogan off towards the end of the first-half in Sunday's All-Ireland senior hurling final at Croke Park.
Kilkenny were leading Tipperary by a point when Hogan made contact with the head of Cathal Barrett with a stray elbow along the Hogan Stand touchline. Replays duly showed that the Danesfort forward had caught Barrett on the chin.
Owens took his time in coming to the decision to show Hogan a straight red and it was ultimately brandished, much to the amazement of the player whose absence left the Leinster side with a mountain to climb after such an encouraging first quarter and more.
“It was a decisive factor, there's no doubt about that,” said Cody after the 14-point defeat. “The first-half, obviously, was very, very even. We played really well, I felt, and their (first) goal was important from the point of view of the score at half-time and getting them very close again.
“But I thought our hurling was very good and the sending-off was going to make it a huge ask, obviously. The general opinion would be that for us to take 15 on 15 was going to be very difficult, but to try and take them on with 14 players just proved to be a bridge too far, definitely. That's as it turned out.”
And so, the million dollar question: was the decision to send his man off correct?
“There's a lot of ye here and I wonder what ye all think because nobody seems to know,” he said in the post-match media conference. “I was close to it. I was amazed. I am the manager of the Kilkenny hurling team ... and I didn't really know. I hadn't a clue, to be honest. I saw he just turned and he went down but the only thing I will say is we won't make any excuses for not winning the game. We were beaten well in the final score but it is a huge decision to make, to issue a red card.
“You would want to be very, very definite before you do a thing like that and certainly it took the referee a long, long time to make up his mind and say 'I wonder what that should be'. He consulted himself, he consulted his linesman and he consulted the player himself, went over to have a look at him. And I would say if he knew for certain what it was going to be he would have made his mind up straight away.”
Hogan's sending-off was supplemented by two Tipp goals inside the opening eight minutes of the second-half courtesy of Seamus Callanan and John O'Dwyer. What had been a tense, taut tussle was now an eight-point game and Liam Sheedy's men would not be caught from there.
“That did give them the daylight and we kept it at that and we kept popping some scores but we needed a goal, which was going to be very difficult to get with an extra defender back there,” said Cody. “But we defended magnificently. I thought some of our players were outstanding against serious odds and that's the way it went.
“There wouldn't have been a huge confidence outside the dressing-room in our team but the way they fought, the way they played, the way they defended I thought was excellent.”
Tipp were electric in spasms only. Sheedy said as much later when lamenting the volume of ball lost after the break when it was pumped forward into the Kilkenny third, but that leakage was affordable when TJ Reid was being squeezed at the other end by a defence with a spare man since Hogan's departure.
Kilkenny didn't exactly help themselves either.
The nature of some of the ball landed in on the Tipp rearguard in that second period was speculative at best, and much of it lapped up by a back line that impressed collectively and as individuals. Cody, though, didn't seem too taken with the idea that they may have contributed to their own downfall.
“Well, I would say that the use of the ball in the first-half was superb, superb, when we had a player in every position. It became very difficult then in the second-half to find the men. You are talking about playing a very fine team and conditions not particularly conducive to finding everything you want to find in it.
“I don't think it's down anything in particular like that. We were beaten and we are not going to be going around making excuses. That's life. I still believe that our players were superb.”