Opinion: Brian Cody. Simply the best!

Brian Cody calls time on his standout Kilkenny managerial career

Kilkenny GAA county board begin the unenviable task of looking for a new senior hurling manager to replace the legendary Brian Cody who has called time on his outstanding twenty-four year tenure with the senior team.

Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on this seismic announcement, the stellar managerial career of the great man and looks at the potential managerial replacements brave enough to step into the role.

There were rumors circulating on this news in recent days. Brian Cody has had a rolling twelve month contract with the board and the manner of the team’s performance against Limerick last weekend indicated abundance grounds of optimism for next season.

This news is a surprise. I thought personally that Brian Cody would remain at the helm just one more season which would have been his twenty-fifth on the sideline as Kilkenny manager so what has changed here?

We should have paid more attention to his postgame comments immediately after the two point loss to Limerick last weekend. He spoke about his admiration for his players, it was akin to thanks for all your efforts under my managerial watch.

Cody spoke about how the Kilkenny people should be incredibly proud of the players. I see that statement now as asking the people of Kilkenny to reflect on the glorious era that this Kilkenny team have enjoyed in the last twenty years.

The way that the manager gazed into the stands of Croke Park post the All Ireland SHC final last weekend looked like a man who was enjoying the spotlight one last time.

Brian Cody was the sole candidate put forward for the Kilkenny senior hurling managerial role back in November 1998. Kilkenny were at an extremely low ebb. The county had superb individual players but the overall team ethos and quality was lacking.

  • 1999 season saw Cody look to change the squad up. James McGarry and Henry Shefflin were given debuts to the senior side. Cody was pragmatic about his side’s chances but an exhilarating Leinster SHC final victory over Offaly provided the platform for a tilt at All Ireland final glory. Kilkenny would face perennial rival Cork in the decider. A dour affair as Cork’s experience and nous to close out the contest was key down the stretch. Kilkenny beaten by a point but optimism aplenty.
  • The following season saw the introduction of the back door system. A comprehensive victory over Offaly in the Leinster SHC final again setting up Kilkenny for a tilt at Liam McCarthy glory. Offaly were the opposition in the All Ireland SHC final and this time Kilkenny made no mistake. DJ Carey superb as Kilkenny won the final on a scoreline of 5-15 to 1-14 and their first Liam McCarthy since 1993.
  • The winning habit was infectious and NHL titles followed. Kilkenny building a team for the ages. The Nowlan Park training sessions now legendary. It was not all plain sailing in the Kilkenny camp. Cody when required laid down the law as seen with Charlie Carter in 2003. A rift ensued but the decision to omit Carter from the starting lineup was vindicated as a late Martin Comerford goal secured another All Ireland SHC final win against three in a row chasing Cork.
  • 2004 saw Kilkenny not secured by this stage was the traditional Leinster SHC procession. Wexford’s victory in the final saw Kilkenny enter the back door for the first time but Cody and side embraced the additional fixtures and created momentum when they would face Cork but the Rebels exacted revenge with a passing and run game masterclass to win 0-17 to 0-9.
  • 2005 saw Brian Cody and side reinvigorated. Kilkenny secured a NHL title with an excellent win over Clare but performance issues were noted in the Leinster SHC final win against Wexford. Those concerns were well grounded as Galway secured an epic All Ireland SHC final win exposing defensive frailties in the process. Brian Cody and Kilkenny needed to learn and evolve as several key personnel called time on their intercounty careers.
  • 2006 was supposed to be a transitional year for Kilkenny but not a chance as Kilkenny secured another NHL title beating Limerick, securing another Bob O’Keefe with victory over Wexford and then thwarted Cork’s three in a row ambitions with a performance full of work rate and skill. 1-16 to 1-13 victory and this was a sweet final for Cody and Kilkenny to savior.
  • 2007 and Kilkenny were now in full confidence as the form team to beat. Leinster SHC title honors over Wexford setup Kilkenny with another extended run in the All Ireland series. Kilkenny faced Limerick in the final and blew the Shannonsiders away early courtesy of Henry Shefflin and Eddie Brennan who scored goals early. They were never troubled.
  • 2008 was probably when this Kilkenny side delivered their most devastating performances. The Kilkenny back line was supremely immense and with Eoin Larkin producing superb games, Kilkenny routed Waterford in the All Ireland SHC final, similar to what they had done to Wexford in the Leinster SHC decider. The skill set, the work rate and physicality was at a different level.
  • 2009 saw Kilkenny secure NHL title honors with an extra time win over Tipperary who now started to emerge as the team that would put it up to the Cats. All Ireland SHC final saw the two sides pitted against each other. Kilkenny struggled for good periods of the contest but when Henry Shefflin slotted home a penalty in the second half, Kilkenny took the initiative to win the match by five points. Brian Cody delighted with the win but maybe not so with Marty Morrissey’s questions on the Shefflin penalty award.
  • 2010 was the drive for five. Media pressure cranked up on Kilkenny as the season progressed. NHL final win was followed by a Leinster SHC final win over Galway. The All Ireland SHC final would see Kilkenny face Tipperary who had unfinished business with their local neighbor. Tipperary with Lar Corbett and forward line unit superb denied Kilkenny the five in a row. Kilkenny not helped by the withdrawal of talisman Henry Shefflin as his knee succumbed to injury.
  • 2011 was a year of redemption for Brian Cody and Kilkenny. They were incredibly disappointed at how they did not perform against Tipperary in the All Ireland SHC final a year before. Leinster SHC dominance continued and Kilkenny learned their lessons in the final by beating Tipperary by four points. Cody’s eighth All Ireland SHC title as manager.
  • 2012 saw a new pretender to the crown. Galway. Kilkenny were wary of the challenge that Joe Canning and the Galway side would bring. A replay was required to settle the All Ireland SHC final. 3-22 to 3-11 saw Kilkenny dominate early and never let Galway into the game. NHL title honors secured with a thumping victory over Cork. Normal service resumed.
  • 2013 saw a blip in championship form with an early. 2014 saw service resumed. NHL title win was then followed up by an incredible final series against Tipperary. Cody called out Barry Kelly for a late free which could have won the game for Tipperary. Cody avoided a suspension and Kilkenny proceeded to win the replay by three points.
  • 2015 saw Galway summon the mantle as pretender to the throne. Galway posed issues for Kilkenny in the NHL final and opening half of the All Ireland SHC title but Kilkenny only allowed Galway to score 1-4 in the second half to win by four points. The kings were not to be dethroned.
  • 2016 was more teams come from the chasing pack to have a shot at Kilkenny. Galway tried and failed in the Leinster SHC final and Waterford were brave but succumbed to an All Ireland semi-final replay loss. The attritional nature of the Waterford fixture played into Tipperary hands as the Premier County stormed to a nine point All Ireland SHC final win.
  • 2017 was an interesting year. Clare inflicted a record competitive defeat loss for Brian Cody’s men. Kilkenny looking vulnerable and Waterford exacted revenge for the previous year’s loss by beat Kilkenny 4-23 to 2-22 after extra time.
  • 2018 saw Kilkenny now fall into the chasing pack looking to hunt Galway down as kingpins. Kilkenny losing a Leinster SHC final replay to Galway and then a young, up and coming Limerick side defeated Kilkenny in Thurles in the quarter final stage to end the season.
  • 2019 saw Kilkenny exact revenge on Limerick in the All Ireland SHC semi-final. A performance full of desire, work rate and scores early secured an one point win. It was fully merited but they came across a Tipperary side whose attacking movement was too much.
  • 2020 saw empty crowds but Kilkenny summoned dominance in Leinster SHC beating Galway in the final. Waterford though under Liam Cahill were too fast and strong for a gallant Cats side in the All Ireland semi-final. The championship played in the depths of winter.
  • 2021 saw Brian Cody enter into his penultimate season as Kilkenny manager. DJ Carey left his role as a selector but Cody led Kilkenny to back to back Bob O’Keefe glory with victory over Dublin. Their All Ireland SHC final ambitions were dashed by Cork in extra time in the All Ireland SHC semi-final.
  • 2022 saw Kilkenny build slowly in the league using their panel while Ballyhale were in All Ireland club action. A renewed rivalry with Galway ensued based on the fact that Henry Shefflin was now on the sideline for the Tribesmen. An awkward handshake ensued in Salthill as Galway won with the last puck of the game. Cody would have the last laugh as his Kilkenny side superbly negated the inside full forward line threat of Galway to secure another Bob O’Keefe. A dominant All Ireland SHC semi-final over fancied Clare setup a scintallating All Ireland SHC final with Limerick. It did not disappoint and Limerick had to be at their very best to beat Kilkenny by 1-31 to 2-26.

The years in charge with Kilkenny. The national honors won by Kilkenny in this era will never be matched. Brian Cody is the greatest hurling manager of all time. His managerial nous led to the evolution of several Kilkenny teams. The emergence of Shefflin, Hogan, Power, Walsh, Larkin, Comerford, Reid, Cody, Mullen.

The list goes on and one and given the display of this year’s side, the successor to the managerial crown will have a side full of potential and motivation. The question is whether TJ Reid and Walter Walsh decide to commit for another year will be key. Both players along with Richie Hogan were outstanding against Limerick.

The management discussion will start in earnest but the question here is who can fill the void left by Brian Cody. It is the equivalent of when Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson parted ways. Transition happened quite quickly and swallowed up his successor.

Kilkenny must be careful in their managerial selection and the next year will decide whether Kilkenny continue to be considered as an All Ireland contender. The talent is there but if the manager is not a good fit, the squad cohesion issues will surface on gameday. The Kilkenny attributes of work rate, working for each other on and off the ball will be diminished.

Henry Shefflin will be no doubt linked but would he consider ditching Galway after year one of a three year term? Galway will be bitterly disappointed if this scenario plays out and could backfire seriously on Kilkenny when Leinster SHC round robin kicks off next season.

DJ Carey will be of interest to the county board; had served his time as a selector for Cody in previous seasons and knows how the setup was run. Eddie Brennan would be an outside bet given his stellar work with Laois. Derek Lyng may also have aspirations of becoming the next manager; his U20 side were All Ireland champions. It all depends who is brave enough to throw their hat in the ring.

The next manager installed with Kilkenny has a daunting job in front of him. How does the new candidate differentiate his style from Brian Cody and how does the new manager freshen up and identify the next generation of player to become that next talisman leader on the pitch. Kilkenny board will look for the side to continue to challenge for honors; no talk of transition here.

TJ is the role model so it is now up to Mullen, Cody, Kenny, Browne, Deegan, Lawlor to be that out and out leader. Brian Cody leaves his county in a good state; a team not in decline but the new man must address issues with the over dependence on Reid in attack while also evolving the puck out strategy and running game which improved needs to be enhanced even further next term.

That is not Brian Cody’s concern now. He has left the manager’s post. Brian Cody leaves with an amazing playing and managerial career. An absolute legend. Simply the best! The man will be a miss for the GAA next season. Hurling will be all the poorer without his presence. Best wishes to Brian Cody on his future plans; hopefully he will stay involved with the sport he loves!

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