Cody ready for 'most competitive' race ever
Brian Cody will embark on his 19th SHC campaign on June 10, more than likely in a Wexford Park cauldron. He expects this latest All-Ireland race to be "the most competitive of all" he has faced as Kilkenny manager.
Unusually, his team will enter the fray as third favourites for Liam MacCarthy, Galway having leapfrogged the Cats after their Allianz League final exhibition against holders Tipperary, who remain favourites.
"I genuinely didn't know that. It doesn't matter to me in the slightest," Cody remarked.
"I don't mind where we are in that (betting) table. But I suppose it's consistent with what most people would expect, including yourselves."
Stressing that he knows "nothing about odds", hurling's most decorated manager's only prediction about this year's race was its unpredictability.
"There are four or five teams who more or less on a regular basis could win the All-Ireland final - and there's another four or five who could beat any of those teams on a given day," he explained.
"It probably has changed this year to an extent; I would say there's more teams capable this year of winning an All-Ireland final. I'd say definitely.
"I think it's going to be the most competitive of all. Are Galway one of those? Absolutely. And were they before the League final. Most definitely."
Asked if he enjoyed the challenge of building a new team against a backdrop of pundits suggesting Kilkenny are finished, Cody replied: "What's challenging more than anything else is the quality of the teams out there. I think the quality of so many teams is top class right now, it really is serious.
"The reality of it is we were written off before, we were beaten before, it was supposed to be the end of all sorts ... and now the same thing is there again. Regardless, our challenge is to continue being competitive."
Nobody has done this better for longer than Cody. While he has cherished every one of his 11 All-Irelands, he agreed that those triumphs that followed forecasts of Kilkenny decline (such as 2006 or 2014) "were enjoyable, of course they were".
But he warned: "An All-Ireland is light years away, we're preparing for a Leinster semi-final and are we looking beyond that? Not even remotely."
Presuming Wexford overcome round-robin qualifiers, that semi-final will be in their stomping ground ... but with their manager, Davy Fitzgerald, banished to the stand as he completes an eight-week ban.
"People talk about the passion he brings, but he brings great hurling as well. He brings all the traits that are needed to a team and Wexford have proven that right throughout the league," said Cody.
"If it is Wexford we are playing, Davy is the manager and we know that he is going to have the team primed and ready to go."