For over 40 years Brian Cody and Jimmy Barry Murphy have been crossing swords.
Born only a few weeks apart into two strong hurling counties, they first met in the All-Ireland minor final of 1971 when Cork were victorious. A year later they were back again on the same stage but this time, with Cody as captain, Kilkenny took the honours.
Three years later they met in the All-Ireland U21 final, each already with one medal at that grade in the pocket, and again it was Kilkenny prevailing. Both were promoted early to their respective senior teams and both won top honours, each finishing with five All-Irelands.
Cody outscored his Cork counterpart in National League medals (3/2) but Jimmy heads the All Star count (5/2). It didn’t end there of course for the Corkman. Dual star Barry Murphy also collected every honour in the big-ball game.
He went on to manage the Cork senior hurlers and in 1999 came head-to-head with Cody in an All-Ireland final which the Rebels won.
This year, after an 11-year break, Jimmy is back at the helm Leeside and in Thurles on Sunday he and Brian meet once again in the Allianz Hurling League final. Yesterday they were in Croke Park to meet the media and their mutual respect was very obvious.
Cody admitted: “We do go back a long way, we played minor, U21 and senior hurling against each other — I never came up against him in football! Our careers have had parallels and he’s back to haunt me again! He’s just a sound fella, a fella you would always be happy to meet anywhere. He’s straightforward and genuine, a manager that everyone in Cork is very, very happy with.”
For Jimmy, their familiarity has built anything but contempt. “It’s amazing how our whole careers have coincided, playing with Kilkenny and Cork and coaching as well. It’s extraordinary how long Brian has been there. I opted out for 11 years and he’s still there when I come back! I didn’t envisage this situation ever arising again.”
A lot has changed in the world of hurling since the last time they met, not least the dominance of Kilkenny, and yet — and they were both very strong on this — much has also remained constant.
The Cork great reasoned: “The game is pretty basic, it’s simply hurling skill and commitment. As the years have gone on everything is being upgraded – preparation, physical, technical, tactical. That’s all very, very worthwhile but at the end of the day I think Kilkenny and Tipperary have proven over the last three or four years that the best teams get to the top. My biggest ambition always when I take over a team is to try and build team spirit. You develop a panel of players that want to play together and win together.
“I think if you start off with that you’ve a chance. If you haven’t got morale in the background and team spirit, you’ve nothing.”
Cody concurred: “To me there isn’t a huge amount of difference from when I played. If I was playing now I would still be trying to do the same things I was trying to do then. Maybe teams are fitter but I don’t buy into the fact that teams are stronger. The fitness is a result of greater knowledge with regard to preparation but in terms of the ability to win ball, the ability to score, the ability to tackle, the ability to do all of those things remain fundamentals.”
On the injury front, the Cork boss reported that Donal Óg Cusack (Achilles tendon) will be out for between 9 and 12 months with Patrick Horgan to captain the team in his absence.
Meanwhile, Cody said that Richie Hogan will be considered for selection after making a full recovery from the broken ribs and punctured lung suffered against Galway last month.
Michael Rice (knee), Noel Hickey (hamstring) and Aidan Fogarty (wrist) are on schedule in terms of recovery while Richie Power (knee) faces six to eight weeks on the sidelines.
The news on Henry Shefflin’s shoulder is positive according to Cody. “Henry’s where he needs to be from the point of view of post-operation stuff. He’s not in serious contact yet. The long-term thing was June all along but who knows. We’ll just monitor the situation as it goes.”
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