AT this juncture it’s become a familiar September ritual for Brian Cody.
Patrol the Croke Park touchlines for 70 minutes, observing his black and amber troops on the field staving off their opponents and attaining another All-Ireland title.
Afterwards stand beaming on the sod as the Liam MacCarthy Cup is hoisted into the air in the Hogan Stand. And when the immediate euphoria has died down, troop into the media room to explain to the hacks how it all was done.
Yesterday’s win though had a different tinge to it, the satisfaction levels ratcheted up after toughing it out with Tipperary for 70 minutes as opposed to last September’s obliteration of Waterford.
“Winning a game like that is very special,” remarks Cody. “It was a brilliant game, a huge game, and there were questions asked of us right throughout the field, right throughout the 70 minutes. That’s the great thing about it. It feels outstanding, terrific. There’s no feeling on earth, like the feeling you have when the final whistle goes in the All-Ireland final.”
Kilkenny’s path to success had potholes that they needed to negotiate. Tipperary married skill with valour in a performance that almost carried the day.
Yet through it all Cody remained convinced his players would fight until the dying embers, even when Tipperary were poised for success as they held a 0-20 to 0-17 lead with ten minutes to go. Henry Shefflin’s rocket to the net from a 63rd minute penalty kick-started Kilkenny’s strong finish.
“One thing I’m always absolutely positive about is that we will be fighting in the 72nd, 73rd or 74th minute as hard as we will be at any stage in the game,” stated Cody.
“The thing about the penalty was Henry Shefflin. It was about character and nerve and skill. It was a savage penalty; the ball just burst the net. Three points of a lead is actually nothing in hurling.
“Against Galway we were facing defeat if you like as well. We were led by five points going into the second-half. That was a tough place to be too.
“Again I always say the score only matters once in a game. And that is when the final whistle goes. It was just a question of keeping going and keeping going, creating breaks, creating something and being able to do it when it really mattered.
“Martin came up with a goal at a pretty crucial time. But goals give you that bit of breathing space. All of the talk beforehand was that we were going to be punished by goals but in actual fact that didn’t happen. What shone through very clearly for me today was the way we finished. It was a fiercely hard, physical game and still, with 10 minutes to go, the likes of Michael (Rice) was running strongly.
“Then you’d Jackie Tyrell out 70 yards, gets the ball and hits it over the bar. We finished strongly and athletically and fitness wise and that’s massive tribute to Michael Dempsey, Noel Richardson and the people who have worked on that side of things.”
The win secures the fabled four-in-a-row for Kilkenny. It is a phenomenal achievement and a testament to their maintenance of incredibly high standards of performance. Digesting the implications of the feat, Cody looked a little awestruck.
“It’s kind of an outrageous thing to do,” he mused.
“How difficult is it? It’s mad really. It’s crazy that those players have done that in this day and age and it’s a tribute to the people they are as much as the skill they have. To win one All-Ireland is great, terrific. So many counties would give anything to win one All-Ireland final and ourselves would and did. To go on and repeat it was a massive achievement.”
The victory was embellished by the presence of Tipperary in the opposition corner. Cody has seen plenty hurling days when Premier teams have downed Kilkenny sides, so trumping them is one to savour.
“An All-Ireland final is an All-Ireland final. It is a pleasure to win it no matter who you are playing. But there is a massive traditional rivalry between Kilkenny and Tipperary. Our history isn’t good compared to Tipperary’s history.
“They are a massively proud hurling county. We haven’t had an opportunity to meet them very often or play them in a final. Obviously this has been a good decade for us. But it’s a tribute to Tipperary that we are delighted to have beaten them today, the standing Tipperary have in hurling and in Kilkenny people’s eyes and minds.”
For a man who is typically so imposing and formidable, these post All-Ireland final moments see Cody at his most relaxed. When asked what’s his tip for the man-of-the-match award after winning the honour last year, he retorts, “I certainly haven’t given up hope of winning it myself. I can’t see why, I don’t think I was any worse than last year. Was I?”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved