ANTHONY DALY: Brian Cody won’t want to let Bob O’Keeffe out of Leinster again

Brian Cody allowed the Bob O’Keeffe Cup out of Leinster in 2013 when Galway beat Kilkenny. The manager wasn’t happy about it and will be doing all in his power to ensure there is no repeat in tomorrow’s provincial final, writes Anthony Daly.

After Dublin beat Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final replay in Portlaoise in 2013, we were just back in the dressing-room when Brian Cody arrived in. He was actually in the door before Liam Rushe, who was just behind him.

Galway were coming down the tracks eight days later in the Leinster final but Cody wanted to wish us more than just good luck; he was also delivering a message from hurling people everywhere in the province.

“We let Bob O’Keeffe out of Leinster last year (by losing the final to Galway) for the first time and we weren’t happy about it,” said Cody. “Now, it’s yere job to bring that cup back into Leinster.”

Before I even started talking to the players, Cody nearly had my job done for me. It was a powerful speech. He didn’t spout the obligatory and hackneyed auld lines because Cody challenged our boys to do what he, and all Leinster hurling people, wanted; to keep Bob O’Keeffe where they feel he belongs.

I’m sure Cody will have been transmitting the same message over the last few weeks. It’s a huge cultural change for a county from another province to come into your backyard but Cody also appreciates how much of a threat Galway pose to Kilkenny’s provincial superiority within that domain.

Galway have the players to beat Kilkenny. They have the pace and class and strength in depth but how good are they either? When they had to beat Cork at home in the league relegation final, they couldn’t get the job done. When the pressure came on, they wilted. Their wins against Westmeath and Offaly didn’t tell us enough about where they really are.

Galway have to be different from last year because they desperately need to be. They were in a great position at half-time in the All-Ireland final but they caved in once Kilkenny unleashed their second-half onslaught. After watching Dublin collapse again in the second half three weeks ago, I’m sure Galway will have addressed the need to meet that onslaught head on once the second half begins.

Sometimes though, you can overly focus on some of this stuff. With Kilkenny, the onslaught can come at any time in the match. They are more relentless than other teams. Galway will have to be even more relentless but how much do they really want this? What are they really made of this year? We don’t know.

I watched the Westmeath game again this week and there was an edge to Galway’s play. You could see that from the throw-in when Davy Glennon got stuck into the Westmeath midfield. There was a hardness to Galway too against Offaly but some of it was brainless; David Burke is lucky to be available tomorrow after his reckless challenge. He’s not a dirty player. We didn’t see what happened in the lead up to the incident either but it was far more dangerous than what John O’Dwyer got red-carded for against Limerick. Conor Cooney was sent off against Offaly but at least he got that card rescinded.

Galway need to play with savage aggression and intensity but Kilkenny only love to be physically taken on so you have to be smart too in how you channel that aggression. Beating Kilkenny takes a fusion of so many basic elements. You need to run them but there is only so much of that you can do too and every player has to man up and win their own ball.

If there are question marks about Kilkenny, they are in the full-back line, with the obvious exception of Paul Murphy. He was superb against Dublin but Dublin played right into Kilkenny’s hands.

If I was Micheal Donoghue, I’d be trying everything to get Murphy out to the corner and away from the play as much as possible. Murphy will want to protect the goal but he won’t be able to leave Cathal Mannion or Jason Flynn loose either. They both have such pace that Murphy wouldn’t be able to catch Flynn or Mannion if they did get a run on him. That then leaves Galway more scope to go after Joey Holden and whoever Kilkenny play in the other corner.

As much as I’m saying it now, I’m sure Brian Cody is aware too that will be Galway’s central attacking aim. He’ll be expecting that so I’m sure you’ll see Cillian Buckley playing really deep and Colin Fennelly or whoever is stationed on that side of the field to come back and provide cover in that sector.

On their day, Galway can turn Kilkenny over but they’re going to have to produce something special to do so against a team whose hunger and drive continues to amaze everyone.

It’s almost All-Blackesque at this stage because they just refuse to drop their standards.

Mick Fennelly and these guys are amazing in how they keep delivering. To my mind, TJ Reid has stepped up again. There was a lot of talk in May about Tony Kelly and Austin Gleeson, even Seamus Callanan, assuming that status as the game’s top forward but TJ is still the man, the main go-to-guy. He is still doing it more consistently than anyone else. So are Kilkenny. That’s why I expect them to win.

Moving onto this evening in Páirc Uí Rinn, a first championship game at the venue could provide an interesting subplot. Home advantage is a massive boost to Cork but the old Flower Lodge could also turn into a thorny bush for Cork’s own hide if they allow it to. I was at Cork’s league game against Waterford and you could feel the discontent in the stand.

It was almost an attitude of, ‘Yere embarrassing us, allowing this crowd to come in here and do what they like.’

The players used that motivation to deliver a performance against Kilkenny in Páirc Uí Rinn. Cork are under far more pressure now to produce a better performance but their crowd won’t accept Dublin crossing the Lee and setting down the terms and conditions of the battle. If Dublin are to have any chance, that has to be their starting point; get the crowd on edge and players rattled.

If this match was on in Parnell Park, I’d really fancy Dublin.

Although they lost to Limerick there in the league quarter-final, Parnell has been a fortress. On the other hand, Cork can turn Páirc Uí Rinn into a cauldron tonight if they deliver what the crowd want, and expect from this side. If Cork start well and get a good rhythm going, they could run out easy winners.

The Dubs are always more dangerous when there is nothing expected off them. Injuries to Dotsy O’Callaghan and Paul Schutte have deprived them of huge leadership in a game of this magnitude but I also think there is more realism around Dublin hurling compared to the clouds of gloom hovering over Cork.

Dublin retained their Division 1 status. They defeated Wexford. The minors and U21s are in Leinster finals in the coming days.

Both of those sides have no real dual players and there is a strong belief on the ground that a new and exciting wave of talent is coming to brighten the future.

Nobody knows where Cork’s future is headed but this team’s only future is this evening. If there is anything in this Cork team – we’re not sure if there is – it has to come out here. If it does, they will win.

Elsewhere this evening, Clare and Limerick will win against Laois and Westmeath, while I also think Offaly will never get a better chance of beating Wexford in Wexford Park. Eamonn Kelly has built real momentum in Offaly, while Wexford have stalled under Liam Dunne.

Liam gave it a great shot but he knows the show is about to end. They were terrible against Dublin but how much of that is down to management either? Are there any leaders amongst that group of players?

I was behind the dugout working for RTÉ at the Wexford-Dublin match.

Late in the day, Ger Cushe turned around and asked a young sub to warm up. The young fella grimaced, as if it was an imposition on his evening. Like, where is any manager going with players with that attitude?


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