Business as usual for Kilkenny

Gauging the exact influence Brian Cody has had on this Kilkenny team is a tricky business.

Business as usual for Kilkenny

For Michael Fennelly, the fact their manager has not actually been missed during his current convalescence perhaps says it all.

Like the rest of the Kilkenny players, Fennelly genuinely knows no more about Cody’s absence than what has already been made public, that it’s the result of a routine cardiac procedure and that he’ll be back for the Championship.

What he can say for certain, however, is that it hasn’t actually affected the players so much. Not yet, anyhow. The foundations Cody has carefully laid in recent years, and indeed since he first took over in late 1998, have simply allowed the good ship to sail on.

Approaching Sunday’s Allianz League semi-final against Galway, Fennelly insists it really is business as usual with Cody’s long time and trusted lieutenants, Martin Fogarty and Mick Dempsey, taking an a slightly more hands on role than normal.

“That’s just the way it is, he is gone but he will be back in a few weeks,” maintained Fennelly. “It hasn’t taken an effect on training, to be honest. There are a good few of us that are there seven, eight, nine years at this stage. So it is up to us to take it on and drive it on. It’s only the league too. It might be different if it was the Championship.”

Should Kilkenny lose to Galway in Thurles, then the post mortem will inevitably focus in on the sideline situation. Fennelly is confident, however, Fogarty and Dempsey have enough tactical nous and big-game experience to avoid the death of their league ambitions.

“It helps they have been around so long,” he continued. “I have felt no difference at training, everything is just continuing on. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think it has taken any effect on anyone so we will just drive on.”

An equally notable absentee this weekend will be Henry Shefflin. If Cody’s Championship return is virtually set in stone, Shefflin’s is a more fluid situation as he attempts to overcome a serious ankle injury. It occurred last winter during Ballyhale Shamrocks’ AIB Leinster Club championship defeat to Oulart-the-Ballagh, a game Fennelly played in. Shefflin had surgery at the time and, it has emerged, returned for another procedure just last week.

All of which makes Shefflin’s likely return date about as clear as mud.

“I don’t know too much about his injury either,” shrugged Fennelly. “He is just going week by week, doing his recovery work, playing it week by week because it is a tricky injury, with the foot.”

Fennelly is studying in UL at the moment for a masters degree in sports science. He is carrying an injury too, a hamstring concern that looks set to rule him out this weekend. He could be back for a league final though, and certainly the Championship, while Shefflin’s desire to continue his unbroken summer service and make a 63rd consecutive appearance remains in doubt.

“I don’t think he will be looking at that (consecutive appearances) picture,” claimed Fennelly. “He is a smart man and there is a good backroom team there so I don’t think that will have any effect at all. He still has two months to the Championship. He is in his mid-30s and he is likely to mind himself more and come back when he is fully fit.”

In Shefflin’s absence, new leaders are required. Along with Richie Hogan and Richie Power, Fennelly’s younger brother, Colin, the captain this year, put his hand up as one of them against Cork in their final group game.

“Yeah, he’s getting stuck in now,” smiled Michael. “He’s with the Army at the moment. It’s awkward for him but I think he’ll be back based down in Kilkenny soon enough. He’s getting on okay, thank God. I think he put the captaincy to the side earlier in the year. There’s a lot of leaders in the team.”

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