So Kilkenny are an ageing, burned-out, exhausted side, playing their fourth big game in three weeks of the hottest weather we’ve had for years.
Well if they are how did they win this game in the final minutes of extra-time in a Thurles cauldron still over 20 degrees at the final whistle?
How was it they were the side driving on at the death, hitting three unanswered points? How was it they managed ten scores in those additional 20 minutes while Waterford managed three?
How was it especially that at the start of that extra-time, even though they were the on course for victory in normal time when Matthew Ruth’s winning ‘point’ wasn’t allowed, that they were the ones who hit the ground running?
A management tour-de-force that’s how.
“The dressing room was fine because excuses were banished from the dressing-room a long, long time ago,” Brian Cody said afterwards. “I mean, you can feel sorry for yourself and say ‘look-it...’ but there’s 20 minutes to go in the game. Any kind of a mental dip, or less than proper body language, and you’re handing over a phenomenal advantage to the opposition and that would be a very, very silly thing to do. 20 minutes to get to a quarter-final, we would have played another 40, 50, so be it. It’s a great thing to be doing.”
That’s this Kilkenny. They might fade, eventually, but by God they’ll die fighting, every millimetre of the way. So much of that is in their natural spirit anyway because that’s the only kind of guy that will make it onto a Cody team, but so much extra is then inculcated by Cody and his sideline cohorts, Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty.
And you can see it when he discussed that ‘point’ again.
“We almost had the winning point in normal time but they had a serious momentum at that stage, for the previous ten minutes. Okay, that point would have put a stop to it certainly! If a team allows that to flatten them, then they’re not going to be successful. We got a chance to get the heads together, and it was the players essentially. Things settled again and we got back into it.
“We grabbed the momentum, we just grabbed it, thanks to the resolve of the players and the mental toughness and ability of the players. The heads didn’t drop, they just drove on, drove on, drove on, just keep hurling, keep doing the things that made you a hurler in the first place.
“That’s what they did. The spirit is super, the attitude was top-class, and there was an awful lot of excellence out there from both teams. Both teams were outstanding.”
Typical Cody, there was also a tribute – heartfelt and merited – to the opposition. Finally too though, a warning to all future opposition.
“All I can say is we’ll have to improve. If we play to this particular standard again, we won’t win the next game. That’s the reality of the championship, the way it works all the time.
“So, we have set our standard as it is tonight, now we have to look for improvement from that and that’s what the players will be looking for from themselves as well. Because if we don’t, we will be out of the championship next day out.”
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