Highly-fancied Cats might have an off day, insists Cooney

THE hurling world at large expects it, such is the almost overpowering challenge posed by Brian Cody’s all-conquering team, which is chasing a fourth successive All-Ireland title this year, but new GAA President Christy Cooney isn’t certain he will be handing over the Liam MacCarthy Cup to a Kilkenny captain in September.

“I don’t know. If you were a betting man, you’d say yes at the moment, but sport is very fickle,” he said yesterday. “Players can have an off day and others can have a great day and change the direction of things. And a good win can bring a serious impetus.”

Cooney agrees the current squad is “exceptional”. Apart from having a well-run county board, he says that in Brian Cody they have not just a marvellous manger but somebody with outstanding personal qualities. “He is a class act,” he added. “The players are ferociously focused and dedicated. And, apart from their general make-up, they have this ability to cope with the high pressures of big games.

“They are a special crop of players — unique in their level of skill and performance and working as a unit together. Everything they have won they deserve.”

His own belief is that Tipperary have “serious potential” and he isn’t prepared to write off either Limerick or Waterford yet. Predictably, he shares the general view that while Galway are invariably “there or thereabouts”, they are rather unpredictable.

Most of all, he welcomes the entry of Galway and Antrim to the Leinster championship, agreeing that it will boost interest in the competition. And, he looks forward to a continuing development of the Dublin team under Anthony Daly.

And, what about his native county, who were reminded of Kilkenny’s near invincibility when they lost in Nowlan Park two weeks ago by the biggest margin in the county’s history? Wearing his Cork hat briefly he commented: “As we say, when the sun shines on our backs and we get back in action we are ready to go... I think there is serious potential in underage level in Cork coming through to senior.

“Whether they are capable of winning a Liam MacCarthy Cup or not this year is debatable. But I think it will come back in time and Cork will get strong again.

“It will need a change — like in all teams, a gradually change of personnel because everybody moves on.

“I think we will have a great hurling year. It’s set up for being a better competition in Leinster and we’ll always have a good competition in Munster.”

Meanwhile, Cooney accepts it’s time to review the voting strength of Congress in terms of delegates being truly representative of the Association at large. “There have been concerns expressed that there is an imbalance in the voting strength,” he said. “All I am going to do is ask the new Rules Advisory Committee (chaired by Frank Murphy) to look at this and see can we get a better electoral spread.

“There is enough comment about it and you need to take on board the concerns that people have, particularly with regard to our overseas units. Asia is a prominent part of our Association now and they have no voting rights.

“Apart from that, it has been questioned whether Connacht should have fewer votes than Britain with the volume of clubs that are there. But we need to look at it and ensure we are fair and balanced and all parts of the organisation have a say at what happens at Congress.”


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