“There should be some sort of college course, some psychology course where people just study him. There should be books written about him because I can’t get into his head.”
Former Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity is talking about Brian Cody, under whom he served for eight seasons.
The current Kildare senior manager joined Anthony Daly on a fascinating episode of the Irish Examiner GAA podcast to discuss a career that brought five All-Ireland medals and a topsy-turvy relationship with the man that has managed Kilkenny to 11.
“To sum him up, he’s everything to anyone. Whatever you think he is, he is. You think he’s the most generous guy in the world and the most charitable lad, he is, and I’ve heard amazing stories about him. If you think he’s the most ruthless man in the world, he is, absolutely. I can pay testimony to that. If you think he rules like a tyrant, so be it, some people think he’s a great man-manager.
“No matter what you do in life, once you win everyone forgets about everything else.
“The phrase he said to me was, he’s not here to build friendships, he’s here to build a legacy, and that to me sums him up.”
Having been on the Kilkenny panel for the 2008 and 2009 wins, Herity was promoted to number one in 2011 after PJ Ryan conceded four goals in the 2010 final defeat by Tipperary. Herity recalls how the guard changed.
He just asked me how many of those goals in the final would you have stopped? I panicked and went ‘three’. And he just nodded and that was enough for him. If I had said ‘oh, I don’t know, I probably wouldn't have stopped anything,’ he’d have went, ‘where is this lad at’.
Herity was starting keeper as Kilkenny turned the tables on Tipp in 2011, yet he considers the low Pa Bourke shot that beat him to be a pivotal moment in his career.
“The final was a turning point in my own head, career wise. I let in a goal. The difference with the great players is they are able to mentally put it behind them. That’s one of the great things about Eoin (Murphy).
“But I got kind of caught up. It started in the dressing room afterwards. It would be a harsh enough environment but I remember (county secretary) Ned Quinn coming over to me, he was shaking hands with the boys around me, and then he came over to me and said ‘I don’t know if I should shake hands with you, you nearly cost us’. So that was the start of it.”
The kind of thing that could be easily laughed off as banter in a winning dressing room, but then Herity was called on stage at the celebrations in the Citywest Hotel alongside Eddie Brennan, for a Sunday Game chat with Michael Lyster, who asked him about Cody’s tactics.
“And I went, sarcastically, ‘Brian is an absolute genius, if there's ever a wonderful tactician it’s Brian. ‘Win your own ball, win your 50/50 battles’.
“Eddie Brennan was beside me and I could see him going, ‘cut the mic’, but the crowd were laughing and everything was going happy enough in my head.
I sat down and then Mick Dempsey and Martin (Fogarty) called me over and it was a case of ‘do you realise, you nearly cost us this All-Ireland today. Have you any cop on? All the work everyone has put in all year could have been gone because of you.’
“I’m sure the two of them were unleashed to sort out this lad fairly quick, he’s getting a bit ahead of himself.”
That warning taken on board, Herity held onto the number one shirt the following year.
“I became psychotic in my training in 2012. I became the most extreme person in everything I did, getting my body fat down to 5%. I thought nothing will ever get in the way and make me cost the team again.
“But then a moment of stupidity, 2012 semi-final. I should have flicked the ball away, went to rise it and Lar (Corbett) bumped into me and Pa Bourke stuck it in the net.
“At the very next training session, Brian came over to me. ‘What do you think’. And I said, ‘yeah, made a mistake there’. And he just said casually, ‘what’s Eoin like?’
Then sub keeper Eoin Murphy was just out of the U21 ranks, but Herity already he knew he had "the full package".
“And I said, and this is the one that will kill me, ‘Whenever that lad gets in goal nobody will take the jersey off him’.”
Herity managed to hold off Murphy until the start of the next league campaign.
“It was the very first training session in Nowlan Park and I was called into the doctor's room with Brian and Martin Fogarty. It was just like, ‘change happens, David’.
“And I was oblivious. I got the hint after a few league games that meant you’re not in goal and Eoin is. That was it. Change happens.
I still remember joking about it down in Langton's. This ‘change happens’ No clue what he was on about but I soon realised.
Herity was keen to emphasise he saw the other side of the ‘Cody effect’ too when he got back in the team in 2014, after Murphy was injured in the Leinster final.
“Before the semi-final, at the training camp at Carton House, he said, ‘Don’t think for a second you won’t play against Limerick’.
“And when Brian Cody says that to you, you feel amazing. I felt amazing going into that match. And then the heavens opened, the most bizarre game I’ve ever in my life played. And I pulled down one going over the bar and the carnage around the square was mayhem.
“And I had this on my mind going into the next training session. And you’re looking at Brian out of the corner of your eye. And you start reading in things that aren’t remotely there.
“And Brian came over and said ‘are you nervous’. And I said ‘I'm not nervous’. And he said ‘you look nervous though, you seem nervous, why are you nervous?’ He’d try and nick away at you.”
Herity was dropped for the final, but he had seen the writing on the wall earlier in that campaign.
We were having a one-on-one meeting and Mick and Martin were asking me questions. Brian was eating a scone, but just kept going ‘you’re too old’.
“The GPA were organising some chat with the lads and I was the GPA rep. And he asked what was going on in the meeting. And I said they are talking about courses and grants and stuff for lads who are thinking about retiring. And he came in straight away and said ‘I’d say you’re interested in that now’.
“It was an awful kick in the teeth. But that’s it. It’s the Jekyll and Hyde. You never know where you fit with him.
“I wish even in ‘11 I was a small bit mentally stronger to take the criticism.
“A lot of lads did crumble. They were dropped for a match and pushed aside and never seen again. But you had a conveyor of young lads coming through non-stop.
“I would have thought the smallest bit more man-management... Brian is brilliant in what he achieved and the way he’s achieved it you can’t argue with it. But the smallest bit more man-management would have kept a few more younger lads going.”