Another February. Another league. Another chat with Brian Cody. The Kilkenny boss usually fields questions at the annual renewal of Avonmore’s sponsorship of the Cats’ GAA teams, and this season was no different.
Item one: Waterford’s arrival on Sunday in Kilkenny’s league opener, the teams’ first clash since last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay.
“Last year, before we ever played them in the championship,” said Cody, “everybody was talking about tactics and systems. I remember saying at the time: ‘whenever I think of Waterford I think of very, very good hurlers with terrific skill, athleticism and all that.’ That’s what they are. A really excellent team.
“They are going to bring everything. Obviously, they were beaten in an All-Ireland semi-final replay last year – they are targeting going beyond that. And beyond that is an All-Ireland final. That’s what’s in their heads, you can be sure. They see themselves of that quality - which they are. They have that ability to be very fluid in how they play, very adaptable. They use whatever system – I’m not into the word system too much – whatever tactics they use, they use.
Item two: Waterford dropped the sweeper last year, but should the Cats have gone with that approach in the All-Ireland final?
“That’s like saying, ‘if we play them next Sunday we’ll beat them.’ You can’t ever do that. You never have the benefit of hindsight. I have no sense I would have done anything differently. We were beaten because Tipperary were the better team. That’s the way sport goes. We were ahead, what, 10 minutes into the second-half? We got a goal after half-time and were ahead, which was a good position to be in. then they came with a really strong burst. In the last seven, eight, nine minutes I suppose they really pulled away.
“They were just better than us on the day. You just say ‘well done’ and that’s it, the game is over. You can’t do anything about it. You can talk about it, rationalise it, fellas can come up with all sorts of theories – ‘if we had done this, or they hadn’t done this, or if something else hadn’t happened’ – but you can’t impact on the way the game went.”
Item three: What about suggestions Kilkenny should have made a switch in their full-back line that day?
“People give their opinion on it and those who give their opinion consider they have the ability to see what should happen,” said Cody.
“That’s fair enough, they’re entitled to that opinion. Their team would never have to be tested - people who say that, I have no problem with it. Before I became manager of Kilkenny I had ideas too: ‘this should have happened, that should have happened’.
“It was easy for me to say that because I never had to prove I was right or wrong. That has never had an impact on me because we’re charged with the responsibility of who plays and who doesn’t, and how we play, but most of all we’re charged with making sure there’s an absolute genuineness in the team that goes out there - that the preparation is solid. The game is played, the final whistle is blown and you can never change it. And you can never find out at all if things had been done differently, would things have happened differently. You never know.”
Item four: How long does it take to get over a loss like that?
“People talk about things like that as if you can’t see anyone for weeks or months,” said the Kilkenny boss.
“But you can only be yourself, your own personality. If you go around as if you think the world has stopped, pretending that you’re in this deep sense of mourning – maybe some people do that because they’re trying to make it something that it is not.
“It’s a game, a phenomenally important occasion, and the whole hurling aspect is massively important. But sport is played out on a pitch on the day. The final whistle blows – that decides who wins the game. I don’t think going into a deep sense of mourning, going around with your head down as if the world has ended . . . And maybe some people have to react like that. I don’t, personally.
“I’d always think if we’d been negligent in our preparation, we as a management team, I’d be furious about that. But if you thought the effort from the players was top-class, if the spirit was there, they gave it everything, well, you’re not going to win all the time, that’s for sure.
“I’m not pretending it doesn’t bother me, that it’s ‘ah look, we lost, who cares’. We all care. We care completely. But what I’m saying is I can still get on with my life. I don’t go around in a fit of depression over it or anything like that.
Item five: What are the lessons in a defeat like that?
“I’ve looked at it once (since), to be honest. You’d be stupid to think there are no lessons to be learned, because if you think that you’re saying, ‘I know it all’. There are always lessons to be learned, no matter what the game is.
“Even if it’s subconscious and you’re storing stuff away without even knowing it. But that game can never be played again. You move on and remember the things you remember, but we don’t over-analyse it either because that game will never be played again.”
Item six: The season awaits.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved