Recently-retired Kilkenny star Jackie Tyrrell has delivered a stinging broadside against Ger Loughnane for his recent comments about Brian Cody, writes John Fogarty.
Loughnane last week said the 11-time All-Ireland winning manager should have stepped down in the wake of September’s All-Ireland final defeat to Tipperary having earlier this year claimed he had led a “functional” Kilkenny team to glory last season.
Tyrrell levelled a withering attack on the Clareman. “Ah, sure Ger is Ger. I’d say maybe if Ger spent more time on his hurling and concentrating on hurling rather than worrying about Brian Cody and Kilkenny and our physicality, he might have a few more All-Ireland medals in his back pocket as a player.
“Well, actually he might have one!
“It is a time of the year that is quiet on the GAA scene – is Ger trying to make himself a bit relevant, I don’t know.
“It is absolutely crazy, I don’t know what his motivation is behind it, but in a logical world it doesn’t make any sense at all.
“Then to compare him to Seán Boylan and Alex Ferguson, it is madness, really. I have no real logic to it and I can’t see any background to why he would say that.”
Tyrrell was just as unimpressed by Loughnane’s “functional” statement prior to this year’s championship.
“We didn’t pay any heed to that. It doesn’t go up on a wall. It’s very rarely mentioned; it might be mentioned in Langtons after training. It’s a bit of a laugh, to say that we’re functional. It’s another one of those outlandish comments.”
Although Cody saw fit not to use Tyrrell in this year’s championship, the James Stephens defender has nothing but praise for his fellow clubman. When he met Cody last month to reveal his news, the conversation was short but Tyrell has a few things he wanted to say.
“He said some nice things about me, and we spoke briefly about our time, the journey. And I thanked him for giving me the opportunity.
In fairness, he said ‘no’, and I said, ‘Brian, in fairness, you put your head on the block for me’. I came in off a not great underage career.
“I was well in aware, in 2006, the talk that I was only there as captain because of the club, James Stephens. Some of it was probably merited. Then I got dropped that year, and he did put his neck on the block, picking me for the final. If I did have a bad final, who knows where that would have ended up.”
Tyrrell never took what Cody gave him for granted. “Every time I put on the number four jersey I would look at it for three or four seconds, and it filled me with immense pride, whether we won or lost.” Knowing that he played with some of the finest ever exponents of the sport meant everything to Tyrrell.
The group’s “raw hunger” was something that enthralled him. “I can definitely say I played with some of the greatest hurlers ever. Were we the greatest hurling team ever? I haven’t seen a whole lot of history but I would say we’re up there anyway.”
“I would feel we were part of something hugely special and unique that I don’t think will ever be replicated again.
“I think when you win an All-Ireland it’s natural to become soft and not as hungry but we had a burning desire in us every year to be the best. There wasn’t a motto or anything but if we didn’t win an All-Ireland it was a waste of a year. No matter what you did personally or if you won a league or a Leinster, it was a waste of a year and then in between we would have lost one or two that would give us that kick in the backside and get that hunger back going again.”
Tyrrell was known as a teak-tough hurler but he doesn’t like being reminded of how he flattened Seamus Callanan in the 2009 All-Ireland final.
It had been felt Tyrrell was evening up the score after a Callanan challenge broke Brian Hogan’s collarbone earlier in the year.
“So many people say it to me, ‘Oh, you sorted Callanan out’ and all that. I’m still a bit embarrassed by that. That doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not a regret but I’d rather not have done it. It wasn’t something that I was going out going, ‘I’m going to sort this lad out’. It just happened. It was a free, it was a yellow card. If you done it in a match you could get a red card. It wasn’t something I intentionally did. I’d like to think I was a physical player but fair and probably that day I stepped over the line a bit that day.”
Tyrrell was speaking at the launch of Littlewoods Ireland’s three-year associate sponsorship of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship and their backing of the Camogie National League.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner