Brian Cody’s extraordinary longevity as manager of the Kilkenny hurlers throws up some fascinating statistics. For instance, one often hears that a long-serving coach or manager has steered particular players throughout their entire playing careers.
In Kilkenny and Cody’s case, players like Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh always had Cody as a manager while they wore black and amber.
Twenty years in the hot seat brings that to another level, however. Kilkenny’s bright young forward hope this season, Adrian Mullen of Ballyhale Shamrocks, was born in 1999: the same year Brian Cody first took charge of the Kilkenny seniors.
That was the year Cody’s senior side first reached an All-Ireland final, losing narrowly to Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork. Since then the man from James Stephens has been opposed by Cork managers Tom Cashman, Bertie Óg Murphy, Donal O’Grady, John Allen, Gerald McCarthy, Denis Walsh, Jimmy Barry-Murphy (again), Kieran Kingston, and John Meyler (when John Considine was appointed interim manager in 2009, his side didn’t play Kilkenny).
On Sunday, Cody faces another returning manager, Liam Sheedy. Since starting his Cats stint, Cody has shared the sideline with Tipp managers Nicky English, Michael Doyle, Ken Hogan, Michael ‘Babs’ Keating, Liam Sheedy (in his first incarnation), Eamon O’Shea, Michael Ryan, and now Sheedy again.
A rough count of Cody’s infield All-Ireland appearances as a player runs to colleges (two), club (two), minor (two), U21 (two), and senior (three): 11, all told. As senior manager (replays included) this weekend is his 18th All-Ireland final outing, or 29th including playing appearances. Will anyone ever match that?