A Kilkenny victory on Sunday will be remembered as Brian Cody’s finest success yet, according to former defender Eddie O’Connor.
The Glenmore man, who blames Waterford and the influence they’ve had for this year’s disappointing All-Ireland championship, claims Cody would have won a 12th All-Ireland title had he been in charge of Kilkenny in 1998.
It’s O’Connor’s belief the number of Kilkenny retirements at the end of last year ensured the 2015 season had been written off in the county.
“If Kilkenny win on Sunday, it will go down as Cody’s greatest achievement. What other county with five players retiring could cope? A lot of people this year, myself included, thought Kilkenny would be in transition. In fairness to Brian, he’s went about his places, brought in two or three new players to the team like Joey Holden and Ger Aylward and Shane Prendergast and the show just goes on.
“While there are a lot of big name players gone with huge experience like Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin and Aidan Fogarty, Brian had managed. That’s why it would be so great to beat Galway with what is effectively a new team.
“Few managers would have lasted as long as Cody. He’s always been able to succeed. If he was there in 1998 instead of Kevin Fennelly, Kilkenny would have won the All-Ireland. I’m sure of that.”
O’Connor is excited about the prospect of a 15-on-15 game as much as a Kilkenny win. He holds Waterford responsible for what has largely been a disappointing hurling season. “The reason it has been a poor championship is the way Waterford set up. It didn’t help things. I don’t want to be too critical of them but facts are facts. The sweeper system does absolutely nothing and they were the people who brought it in.
“I was thrilled that Kilkenny beat them in the semi-final and the sooner that sweeper system is dismantled the better it will be for hurling. If the sweeper system continues, we’re going to lose more and more spectators. It doesn’t put people on the edge of their seats like open, fast hurling.”
O’Connor commends the Galway County Board for retaining Anthony Cunningham this year — “too many times have they given up on managers but they’ve stuck with Cunningham and it’s paid off so far”.
And he expects there might be sparks between Cody and Cunningham on the sideline as there was in the 2012 drawn final.
“You’d have to say Cody is the old dog for the hard road and Anthony Cunningham, like the other managers, he’s still a new kid on the block. The old dog doesn’t like to see the new pup moving in on his territory.”
O’Connor hopes referee James Owens plays his part in giving those in attendance and watching on TV a spectacle. “Galway are very skilful and physical and with Kilkenny it’s a bit like the Clint Eastwood movie —- Any Which Way But Loose (sic). I would expect it to be a hard, physical game and hopefully the referee will let common sense prevail. People want to see physicality. If you don’t want physicality then go and play golf!”
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