Allianz Hurling League Division 1 relegation play-off
Kilkenny v Clare
Tomorrow: Nowlan Park, 2pm
Referee: C McAllister, Cork
Bet: Kilkenny 1/3, Clare 11/4, Draw 11/1
Had Brian Cody not mentioned the word “criminal” his interview the day after last year’s All-Ireland final replay would still have been attention-grabbing.
It wasn’t just Barry Kelly he took aim at but the perception that Clare and Cork the year before had somehow transformed the game of hurling.
“Everyone said last year was a whole new ball game, the championship was a whole new ball game,” he opened. “Probably the expectation was from yourselves (the media) that we’d be moving aside for a while, that we had a lot of work to do to catch up on the new hurling that was going to be played from now on. We had to take on the challenge.”
What Cody considered of this fresh brand attributed to Clare and Cork was extremely little. Asked was there too much made of the 2013 final replay, he said: “I was amused at the time, to be honest. I have seen it before, I have heard it before. People get excited when they see something as if... it’s as if like people never scored goals before or as if people never hurled before. It happens.
“The participants weren’t claiming it. The media came up with all sorts of novel ideas that had been thrown out over the years. I have seen about four or five new types of hurling since I came into this job in people’s minds.
“The fundamentals of the game can’t change. It’s impossible to change the fundamentals of a team sport like hurling. He continued: “People always like something new. That’s neither here nor there, really.
"If we want to be serious about our sport, our participation in the Championship, we just have to go on and do our job. People who speculate on it can speculate on it, have their preferences. Some people said this (2013) was the greatest championship of all time. The president of the GAA said it was the game of the century. (pause) Maybe it was.”
Cody felt so strongly about the matter he brought it up with Liam O’Neill shortly after the then president made the comment. But the belief that Kilkenny had somehow been left out in the cold permeated the group.
Richie Hogan remarked a few weeks after beating Tipperary: “This year it was extra sweet because with the way last year went and being written off in a lot of places outside Kilkenny, people saying that a lot of players were coming to the end.”
So motivating were Clare to Kilkenny’s cause last year, Lester Ryan may have well have thanked them in his acceptance speech last September. They may have been the best team in 2013 but the unbridled adulation they received was galling for some both in and outside the panel in the county. In hindsight, it might have been the undoing of Clare themselves last year.
In the week before last year’s drawn All-Ireland final, Eddie O’Connor made a damning comment about the previous season’s champions: “By losing to Wexford, Clare proved in Wexford they were one of the worst teams ever to win an All-Ireland and despite the media praise for them and the claim they made progress Wexford lost to Limerick by 25 points.
“If that’s progress well it beggars belief.”
Clare haven’t forgotten that slight either but presented in front of Kilkenny tomorrow they are the very symbols of what drove them to succeed the Banner as champions last year.
Beating and condemning them to Division 1B will make their yawning 12-week wait to a Leinster semi-final feel like nothing at all.
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