Strength in depth will be crucial in deciding the outcome of the 2018 All-Ireland hurling championship, Brian Cody predicted yesterday.
Injuries will play “a huge part” in the destination of the MacCarthy Cup and, with matches coming thick and fast in May and June, proper management of recovery time between games will be “very very important”, he added.
“Players want matches but their resilience will be tested,” Cody declared at the launch of the Top Oil Leinster schools’ senior A hurling championship in Kilkenny. “Freedom from injury will be important. Managing all the things so that players are physically ready to go again.
“Once you hit the championship it’ll be Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. The amount of training you’ll be doing in between? You won’t be, essentially. You’ll play a match, recover and then get ready for the next game. That will happen for five or six weeks.”
From the point of view of club players in Kilkenny the restructured season is “definitely not an improvement”, Cody went on. “It couldn’t be considering they always knew when they were playing. The matches were always set. They were playing April, May, June, August, September, October, whenever. Now it’s a question of April and who knows after that.”
If other counties decided to curtail club activities in April, would that create an issue for Kilkenny?
“If it is meant to be decided that April is for the clubs then it’s for the clubs. The county board here seem to be considering playing two rounds of club games in April, which certainly I won’t have a problem with. The club has to be looked after.”
Now about to enter his 20th consecutive season as Kilkenny manager, Cody dismissed suggestions the county’s precipitous decline this year — from All-Ireland finalists in 2016 to casualties in the second round of the qualifiers 10 months later — took him by surprise but admitted that they weren’t as competitive as they needed to be.
“We never played at a level that was going to allow us to be really competitive. It was a tribute to the players that they brought Waterford to extra-time. Their resilience was excellent. But overall during the league and championship we were never at the level we would have expected of ourselves.”
That’s not to say that he sets a minimum target for Kilkenny every year. He doesn’t.
“If you go back to 2013 we were knocked out at the All-Ireland quarter-final. There’s no way that we could ever be in any way thinking, well look, the quarter-final is at least as far as we get. You can never say anything like that and we never have.
“I would never presume where we are going to be in any way, never presume where we are going to be any year. Get in there and try to get things ready to roll. I would always, every year, be very, very clear that the competition is serious, and for the last couple of years it has been massively serious and will be again for the coming year.”
Defeat at Wexford Park in June, he pointed out, catapulted Kilkenny into the minefield of the qualifiers.
“By losing in the provincial championship you are putting yourself in a situation where the qualifiers become hugely important because if you are doing well in Leinster you aren’t going to face that challenge.
“But it’s great that there are so many counties in the province who are so strong. It’s terrific from everybody’s point of view.”
Dublin under Pat Gilroy and Anthony Cunningham have the potential to be “really serious competitors” next year, he asserted.
Of Gilroy, he added: “He is a proven manager in many ways in his life and a man I have huge respect for.”
Elaborating on the county’s plans for 2018, Cody revealed that Kilkenny will be getting back into training shortly.
With the Walsh Cup starting earlier and the National League commencing at the end of January, teams will be planning and getting ready “that bit earlier”, he acknowledged.
“The amount of time for training is certainly cut back. But at the end of the day, you still do your work, you do your training. You have your dates and you gear towards those.”
The county’s approach to the Walsh Cup has not been decided, he went on.
“We haven’t fully thought of that. For the last few years we’ve been away so the under-21s have played. But between ourselves and the U21s, we’ll look at it and see what way we’ll approach it.”
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