*Kilkenny manager Brian Cody on the sideline in Croke Park. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody didn’t surprise anybody when he said shortly after Saturday‘s All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final that he had “absolute admiration for the way the players performed”.
Prior to the contest, Clare were tipped as favourites but it’s a tag that goes out the window once the action commences, the eleven time All-Ireland winning manager noted. “There’s no team, no management team, concerned about who the favourites are because favouritism goes out the window once the whistle blows”.
“We were coming up to play Clare, an outstanding team. They showed in the last two games, in different ways obviously, the quality and spirit they have and the real fight they have in their team and the skill level. To be in the position we were at half time took a huge amount of honesty and effort and skill obviously and application from our team”, the game’s longest serving manager said.
Cody stated, “In the second half the performance dipped a bit maybe and that is understandable as when you are that far ahead you are probably looking for the final whistle but still we tacked on some great scores. I have absolute admiration for the way the players performed”.
He continued, “up to the Leinster final we were literally playing every week with possibly one break of two weeks which gives absolutely no time for training. We have great emphasis on our panel at all times so having had a break since our last game gave an opportunity for every player on our panel to get out there and work for the team and put their hands up to make a claim for a starting place. I know everyone wants to talk about a settled team but I make it clear the whole time that I am more interested in having a settled panel and everybody fighting for a place and given the opportunity to be in the team. No one knows what team will be picked for the next day, we will pick the team we think is the right team with everybody applying themselves and having that absolute spirit that everybody respects everybody else’s opportunity that if they earn the right to play they deserve to play”.
Asked if he had any particular plan for this semi-final he said, “at the end of the day when you are on the sideline and with no Maor Foirne, no communication from the sideline to the players on the field, you trust the players completely and thanks be to God we have players we can trust”.
Commitment of the players to go the extra mile in terms of workrate was labelled as the essence of team play and spirit in hurling by Cody.
Asked if he felt Clare had played into Kilkenny’s hands with their tactics he said “I wouldn’t comment on what Clare were trying to do. I have absolute respect for Clare, what they have done this year, they will be disappointed with today but they are a wonderful team. They applied themselves magnificently. They didn’t stop fighting until the last second of the game which is a credit to the spirit they have”.
“You go out to try and win every game. We were at the same stage last year as well but we didn’t make the final and that drives on the players. The players deserve all the credit, you can talk about the manager and management teams and all sorts of people but when the game starts the players bare their souls and they have to perform and that’s they way it is in every sport. Remember we were here last year and the year before and didn’t win. In everybody’s mind they will be saying you can’t afford this to happen again because its a tough feeling when you do lose it”.
Looking ahead to the final he said, “we know it’s going to be a phenomenal challenge in the final. There is a short time to the final but when you are in the final you don’t pick and choose what you get. We would crawl to Dublin tomorrow to play it to be honest.