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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Cody: You have to play own way but deal with the tactics

Legendary Kilkenny boss relishing chance to topple All-Ireland champions Limerick

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody poses following a Kilkenny press conference at the Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody poses following a Kilkenny press conference at the Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final

In situations like this, Brian Cody's inherent pragmatism can be bracing.

You ask him about any perception of him, his team or hurling and he'll break it down in its constituent parts and throw them into the air.

And so, much navel-gazing ensued after Kilkenny's Leinster SHC final defeat to Wexford, the latest piece of evidence that the county team in its current guise was still some way off All-Ireland winning level.

People began to preach patience and reference the word 'transition'.

The way Cody saw it though, they simply had to play one more game to get to here, an All-Ireland semi-final.

"As I said after the game," he observes, "if we'd won the Leinster final we'd be in the All-Ireland semi-final so you play another game to get into the All-Ireland semi-final, that's it.

"Would we like to be Leinster champions? Of course we would.

"But that was gone and the opportunity to get the All-Ireland semi-final was still very much there and that had to be the focus straight away."

Now that they're here on All-Ireland semi-final weekend, Kilkenny have theoretically as much chance as the other three survivors of making the final.

One win and it's a spot in a first All-Ireland decider since 2016, hardly a glaring absence but given the frequency with which Cody has brought Kilkenny to hurling's show-piece, a significant one should it become three years.

Inactivity

"I was at all the All-Ireland finals and all great occasions," Cody confirms, "great days and there's no point in it having any kind of effect on yourself because if we were good enough to be out there, we'd be out there.

"And we weren't good enough to be out there, so that's sport.

"I had no sense that we should be out there. We shouldn't have been out there because we didn't earn the right to be out there."

Kilkenny go into this game against Limerick with a big win in a match many expected they would lose.

Limerick meanwhile, enter after a period of inactivity that has had a strange effect on Munster champions in recent seasons.

"It's an on-the-day thing, we've got to get it right and they've got to get it right and that's what it's all about," he surmises.

Similarly, Cody is uninterested in engaging in a debate about the evolution of tactics in hurling.

His team have changed with the times but the fundamentals, he strongly feels, are the same as ever.

"Maybe everybody has a different style but at the same time the game is hurling and you take on the challenges that are put in front of you," he outlines.

"Obviously everyone will want to impose their own game on the opposition but that's not going to happen the whole time and you've got to be able to deal with what they are throwing at you and at the same time try to play your own game.

"But at the end of the day, people talk an awful lot about how the game is played and different tactics but it's still hurling though.

"Whatever way you want to take it on, whatever style you want to play or whatever shape you want to put on your team, whoever gets the most scores will win the game."

"Players dictate how you play the game and you can try to impose different things on different players but the way they (Limerick) play is outstanding."

Kilkenny meanwhile, have been praised more for their refusal to fade in any game than their collective excellence.

If anything, the majestic form of TJ Reid this summer has been used as proof of the rest of the team's shortcomings.

"You only have to go back a week to us being in the position where we were underdogs," says Cody.

"There is no great expectation from Kilkenny this year, there hasn't been from just about everybody, apart from ourselves because we don't talk about what our ambitions are.

"But," Cody adds, "as regards expectation from the media or from the wider public, we wouldn't be mentioned in the list of contenders to be successful this year."

You sense that's a perception Cody would take great joy in dispelling this weekend.

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