Brian Cody has dismissed Joe Brolly’s claim that county players are "indentured slaves", saying he has missed the point completely.
Kilkenny’s 10-time All-Ireland winning manager responded to the GAA pundit in a revealing address at UCD on Monday night.
He took issue with Brolly’s depiction of footballers and hurlers as practising something against their wishes.
“There has been a huge amount of talk in the last few weeks about the life of top sportspeople across all codes and the fact it’s going to be so short. It’s been said it’s akin to slavery what’s required now at the top level of sport. That you’ve no life, that you have no career, that you’ve nothing except you’re being slaughtered essentially.
“I just think that a lot of these people are missing the point completely. The reason why any of us are involved in sport from day one and the reason why all of us stay involved in sport is because you enjoy it.
“I always think of that and I think we should never forget it.
“It all keeps coming back to the fact you love the game, because you love playing it, because you love the whole thing of being involved with a team.”
Cody used the example of recently-retired Kilkenny hurler Tommy Walsh to expand on his point.
“I thought Tommy Walsh would hurl forever, so did Tommy. Now he’s finished playing for Kilkenny. Everybody knows who he is, everyone knows what he could do, but why was he so good? The reason he was so good was because he just loved hurling. That was the key to it.
“He’d train seven nights of the week and that wasn’t being a slave; that was because he loved it.”
Cody gave an insight into the ruthless attitude he likes to see in his players.
“What I kind of love, the whole spirit of the thing, when you know that you’re going out on that field and there’s nobody, nobody going to outfight you. There’s no other team around that can say ‘I’m going to work harder than this crowd’ because you developed that kind of spirit that can’t be broken. It’s a fabulous thing.
“People say going out in a match that ‘we’re prepared to die to win this game’ but that’s a dangerous thing to say. You should never say you’re prepared to die to win. You should always be prepared to kill to win a game. That’s the difference.”
Asked afterwards how he coped with defeat, he admitted: “The spirit of the thing, if it’s not there on the field, if you’re not driving, if you’re not hunting, if you’re not working, then to me it’s my fault because it’s my responsibility to ensure the team has that attitude going out.
“So if the team goes out without that attitude it’s not a players’ thing, it’s my problem, and I’ve failed then and that bothers me. That would make me savage. That’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t be giving it up if that happened. That’s the way I deal with it.”
Cody also raised doubts about whether the fitness levels associated with hurling can exceed current levels.
“How much further can it go? It can’t go any further.”
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