The Colossus of the Village

Damn you, RTÉ. Before the All-Ireland final, when mulling on the possibility that Waterford might be mullered by Kilkenny, I decided that such an eventuality would be worthy of a post extolling the virtues of one Brian Cody. Then the sports jackets in the Sunday Game studio decided that the man was worthy of being selected as their Man of the Match. Quite apart from being a ridiculous choice that flies in the face of what the Man of the Match award is meant to be about (and one rightly derided by Hurling Blog), it screws up any concept of originality in highlighting Cody’s role in Kilkenny’s success.

But hey, not being original has never stopped me before, so let’s take a moment to genuflect in front of Cody’s greatness. A number of years back it was assumed that burnout was going to become an increasing feature of Gaelic games as the demands of pulling tractors up sand dunes with their teeth (thanks for that, Ger Loughnane) as a minimum requirement for an inter-county player proved overwhelming. Assuming that managers are not being paid (ahem), it would seem reasonable that mentors might feel the same. And no one has been at the coal face as long or as intensely as Brian Cody. In his ten years in charge, Kilkenny have been to the All-Ireland final eight times and been losing semi-finalists the other two years. It’s not as if success is something that keeps managers going. The only other All-Ireland winning managers in that time either left after winning it (Jimmy Barry Murphy and Donal O’Grady) or left the year after (Nicky English and John Allen). The idea of taking a tumble in the League so as not to show your hand before the Championship, supposedly a favourite of managers of all stripes in the past, has beeen scotched by Cody who treats every match as if it has to be won – or else.

The ruthlessness of the man is a wonder to behold. There can’t be a single person in hurling who hasn’t been antagonised by his behaviour at some point. A contributor on An Fear Rua recently quoted Cody as saying that a typical Kilkenny hurler should be honest, thrifty, hard working and other such blarney that fits in with the Kilkenny self-image of their players being Boy Scouts compared to the pencil moustache type townies from Waterford. Yet where were such noble considerations when Cody was exploding with rage at the referee and the linesman against Galway back in 2004, a performance of Alex Ferguson-esque proportions. It’s a question best left to the philosophers: are people like Cody and Demento successful because they are bullies or are they bullies because they are successful? Either way, bullies is what they are.

The thing is, it isn’t just outsiders or officials who Cody clashes with. The faceoff with Charlie Carter in 2004 was one of the more remarkable stories in hurling in recent times. When Cody decided to put Charlie out to pasture, it antagonsied many – most? – in Kilkenny who thought that Charlie’s long years of service were about to be rewarded with a tilt at picking up the McCarthy Cup as captain in September. Cody blithely ignored the doubters, who almost seemed to be hoping he’d fall on his arse. The Charlie Carter page on Wikipedia has a claim that he “has never forgiven Cody”, something I offer not as evidence that this is true but to demonstrate that someone in Kilkenny has not forgotten. They’re probably from Gowran though, because everyone else in the county has been suitably cowed by Cody’s will to win and its by-product.

No doubt Kilkenny’s production line of talent helps, but such riches haven’t helped Tipperary much over recent years. In addition, Kilkenny now look far stronger at this point of their three-in-a-row than at any other point during it. Please, Mr Cody, step off the gas. Take your wife to dinner more often. Have a long holiday out foreign. Generally do the things that, since Gaelic games are supposedly so all-encompassing, mere mortal GAA folk can’t do any more. Either that, or <censored by WordPress>.