Kilkenny manager Brian Cody hit out at coverage of their semi-final victory over Tipperary which, he believes, will force referee Barry Kelly to adopt a stricter approach to the final.
In a rare moment of public anger, the greatest GAA manager of all time vented his fury.
“There has been a lot written and said about last Sunday’s match and suggestions that the ref is going to have to come down like a ton of bricks in the All-Ireland final because of last Sunday,” he said.
“There was the usual jostling at the start of the game which happens in every match. It’s a bit of body language. A bit of madness. A bit of stupidity, if you like. There’s no-one being hurt in any of those exchanges.
“It’s just a bit of pushing and shoving to get a small bit of an upper hand.”
That wasn’t what had Cody exercised, and indeed referee Cathal McAllister of Cork saw those early exchanges in the same light, just fellas getting to know each other. There was more, however.
“There were some incidents in the game and physicality wouldn’t describe it.
“Physicality is good. It’s a physical game but there were some instances last Sunday that are not part of the game.”
Those instances, he claimed, came from the opposition.
“Being very, very blunt and very, very honest about it, I would defy anyone to show me anything done by any Kilkenny player that would fall into that category. That’s not coming out in the post-match comments.”
It wasn’t that Cody was trying to do a Sunday Game-type exposé job (surprisingly, that programme actually stayed away from all the controversy that evening). He fears, however, that Croke Park will now dictate to Barry Kelly that he must take a strict line in the All-Ireland final.
“I’m not here to talk about Tipperary. I’m just not prepared to stand back coming up to the All-Ireland final and have it out there that Kilkenny were out of line. We’re being tarred...”
As in the two teams being tarred with the same brush?
“Yeah, we are. That’s the insinuation, that there is this crazy game coming up in a few weeks’ time, this mad team [Kilkenny] is going out to play again. It’s as if the All-Ireland final has been scrutinised massively because certain players should be punished for last Sunday’s game.
“But I’ve watched that game a lot of times and there were some things that happened that shouldn’t have happened.”
One of those incidents was when Kilkenny midfielder Michael Rice suffered a badly broken finger as a result of a reckless pull by Tipperary defender Pádraig Maher, a pull that didn’t even result in a yellow card from referee McAllister.
“I was beside it,” said Cody. “I’m not going down the line of handing out yellow cards to anybody but that lad will be out of hurling for the rest of this year. It’s bad enough to miss an All-Ireland final but he’s also going to miss every championship match for his club, which is equally as important to him.
“I’m not here to criticise any team but if people saw dirt — call it what you like in that game — what I’m saying is this: if, as a result of that, Kilkenny are going to be chastised the next day — we were not involved.
“We’re always associated with physicality. Physicality? I’d say we’re very skilful and very disciplined as well. I’m totally against dirty hurling, without a doubt, I’ve no time for it. I mean, we had a player sent off against Limerick [Richie Hogan].
“He struck with the hurley. He deserved it. No question. But I would be seriously concerned about a lot of the talk that is going around about last Sunday, that we were an integral part of that because we were absolutely not. I think there could be a stupid reaction now.
“The last three All-Ireland finals were played and the game was let flow. They were outstanding games. Suddenly, there could be this crazy reaction to a couple of instances from last Sunday which should have been dealt with last Sunday, not in two weeks’ time.
“And suddenly: yellow card, red card for nothing. Let the referee apply the full rigours of the law but let him apply them for what happens the next day rather than the last day.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved