Brian Cody: ‘I don’t get hung up on systems’

The delivery of Brian Cody’s public utterances has always told more about the man than the words he has used.
Brian Cody: ‘I don’t get hung up on systems’

When he told a group of students in UCD last year that you shouldn’t be prepare to die but to kill, he did so with that wry smile of his.

Ditto this summer when he offered withering analysis of Ger Loughnane and TJ Reid’s suggestion that Kilkenny may have to join the party and opt for a sweeper.

Oh, how he made fun back in February when referring to his team as “one-dimensional”.

The same at last week’s All-Ireland semi-final press conference, when the infamous newspaper headline about Kilkenny’s league final defeat to Dublin in 2011 was mentioned.

“I can’t remember it,” he smiled. “I can’t have been that too unhappy about it. What was it?”

Informed it read “Croker chokers”, he replied, “Oh, that didn’t bother me, some of the lads might have mentioned it. That was a stunning piece of journalism.”

Fond of the odd sarcastic comment is Cody but then he only resorts to such when there is nonsense to dismiss.

Like Kilkenny being a defensive team. That one clearly bugs him.

Just because they drop men back and their goals have dried up in contrast to previous seasons doesn’t make them so, he says.

“I don’t get hung up on systems. People sometimes say that we play very, very defensively and I don’t get that either.

“It’s just a question of players going out and they’re obviously given a role to play. Some people deploy an extra defender and some people don’t.

“The teams; Tipperary, Galway, ourselves… we probably have been playing more traditionally, if you like, from the point of view of the formation. But who knows? Maybe we’ll change… maybe we’ll change!”

That, of course, was a joke.

Waterford, though, are a team that have truly been saddled with the words “sweeper” and “structure” but Cody’s view of them is arguably more complimentary.

“Everyone talks about systems in Waterford but when I look at systems I don’t see systems at all: I just see very, very good hurlers.

“They have everything in place — spirit, fitness levels, their ability to play the game they want to play and tweak the game they want to play. They have players who are really flexible and versatile.

“Very few players can do what some of those lads do. One minute they’re half-back and the next minute they’re full-forward during the same game almost nearly two or three times. It makes it difficult to counteract them.”

Just don’t expect Kilkenny under Cody to join them.

Waterford’s preference for squad numbers would never be a goer under him.

Although their classics against Tipperary earlier this decade saw him divert from his traditional practice of lining out players in their named positions, particularly in defence, he has returned to it in recent years.

Trying to hoodwink the opposition with positional switches doesn’t appeal to him as much now.

“I don’t see too much to gain from it. Unless there was a doubt about somebody, we’d put the team down, let them off, and that would be it.

“Again, the prerogative of anyone in charge of a team to do it whatever way they want to do it. We just do it that way and we’re not the only team to do it, I’m not sure, to be honest. There’s not much to be gained, I believe, from trying to pretend otherwise. Just straightforward enough.

“Regardless, I think the whole thing happens on the field anyway. You can have all the preamble you like but the game will begun and the game will end and what happens in between will decide the game and where you’re going.”

Jonjo Farrell, with 2-9 from play to his name in Kilkenny’s couple of Leinster games, is one player doing his talking within the whitewash.

With Ger Aylward and Richie Power unavailable for different reasons, his rise to prominence couldn’t have come at a better time for Cody.

“What hasn’t surprised me is he’s contributed in a serious way to the team, otherwise he wouldn’t be in there.

“He’s spent a couple of years in the panel and it didn’t happen for him straight away. Like every player, he didn’t come in at 20 or 21. He was more mature when he came in, if you like, but his credentials are good from the point of view he’s a terrific team player with a very serious work-rate.

“He wouldn’t have been expected nor required to get the amount of scores he got so far and he could cheerfully have scored maybe nothing in either game and still have played very well from our view from the way he would have contributed to scores got by other players.

“It works like that sometimes.”

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