Brian Cody: It was always going to be a huge battle

In the stands, on Hill 16 and wherever it was being watched on TV, long before Brian Gavin blew the last whistle, there was a knowing resignation that what we were witnessing was another victorious march towards an All-Ireland final for Kilkenny.

Waterford did their utmost to stifle them, but you can only hold a tiger by the tail for so long before it lands a bite and so it proved. Everyone could see it, though to look at Brian Cody as the second-half wore on you would imagine this was turning into a very bad day.

Cody, in the popular image, is a man of calm, as immovable emotionally as a rock, and yet he is anything but that on the sideline as the sliotar soars from one end to the other and his charges go about their impeccable business.

Cody touches the peak of his baseball cap with both hands dozens of times per game. He encroaches on to the pitch with the frequency of a Junior B manager. He points and gesticulates and patrols and rubs his hands on any piece of material he can as he takes in the ebb and flow of the game.

And then he appears before the press, the adrenalin already drained from his system and his face reprogrammed to that default setting of neutrality. Yesterday, though, his good humour escaped the confines of his public image.

A 14th All-Ireland final appearance in 17 seasons will do that to a man. With the press conference all but over, a journalist from Germany asked him a question while preceding it with an apology for his lack of knowledge about hurling. Cody smiled and just couldn’t help himself.

“I’d say you’re in plenty of company there,” he laughed scanning the room, before adding later: “I think you all know plenty about hurling, lads. Don’t take it personally.”

No-one did. He had already spoken as openly as Cody does in these situations, revealing the full extent of the injuries suffered by the likes of Richie Hogan and Michael Fennelly and what they had to overcome simply to make the national anthem yesterday.

Hogan wasn’t able to train until Friday with the back injury he picked up and even then it was a light load. Fennelly has hardly hit Nowlan Park at all since the defeat of Wexford back on June 21.

And as for the game itself?

“The game obviously was tight for a long time. The first half was always a period where it’s serious stuff. Kind of teasing each other out and all that. It was always going to be a huge battle and we went it at half-time two points up.

“It wasn’t a bad situation for us. The game probably opened more for us in the second-half and we probably created a bit more. The goal in the first-half was crucial, but it was just a great game, I felt.”

Four familiar weeks now stretch out before them. Whether it proves sufficient for Jackie Tyrrell to recover from the stress fracture in his ankle, or for Richie Power to finally return to the roster after his ongoing back issues, remains to be seen.

“Jackie is seeing a specialist on Tuesday,” Cody explained. “We’ll know more then. Until then, he’s a wait-and-see job. We’re all hopeful. There’s what? … four weeks until the final. Certainly we’re hoping he’ll be back in contention.

“Richie has put in a huge amount of work. He’s working very hard and he is progressing. There’s club matches next weekend and we’re hoping Richie will be able to get back into training, but that remains to be seen.”

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