Brian Cody expects Kilkenny to challenge in 2018
By John Harrington
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is positive that his team will be very competitive in 2018 despite a below par performance in the 2017 championship by their very high standards.
Defeat in Leinster to Wexford followed by elimination in the All-Ireland Qualifiers at the hands of Waterford mean the Cats suffered their earliest ever championship exit in Cody’s time as manager.
But speaking yesterday at the launch of the Top Oil Leinster Schools’ Senior ‘A’ Hurling Championship in St. Kieran’s College, Cody was adamant that his team will be contenders again next year.
“People are saying we're not in a situation where we'll find it very, very difficult,” he said. “That would be many people's thinking, and understandably so.
“Because definitely we weren't as competitive as we needed to be this year. And if you look at our record at U-21 level, it wouldn't give you a huge sense of confidence or whatever.
“That's the challenge for us. We can't allow ourselves to start thinking, 'ah, look, I don't think we're going to be competitive, the general consenus is that we're going to find it difficult'.
“You have to have a positive outlook on it and I would always have a positive outlook. Not just a simple, silly, positive outlook because we're from Kilkenny. I do believe there's good talent around the county, I do.
“I would always believe there's potential in Kilkenny to be competitive. There's no point going on about being successful because that's difficult and it's for one team at the end of every year.
“But there's degrees of success as well. I would never see a reason why Kilkenny should not be competitive.”
In a sense, Cody hasn’t changed his tune since the days when Kilkenny won four All-Irelands in a row from 2006 to 2009 and four in five years from 2011 to 2015.
Back then he always insisted that Kilkenny weren’t a level above everyone else despite their glut of success, and now he doesn’t think they’re that far off the pace either.
“I would never, every consider that we were at a level above anybody,” he said. “Because you've got to go out and prove it every single day. Every time you play a match you've got to go out and prove it.
“Because one day changes everything. And then suddenly they're thinking, now they're back with the pack, and now they're not whatever it is.
“Now we're way down the pecking order, but that's for other people to speculate and talk about.
“But when you're there involved in it, it's not a question of where you are, it's a question of what we can do and what we're going to do and how we're doing it and take it on from there.”
The 2018 hurling season is shaping up to be a fascinating one. Not only does it look like there are more genuine contenders for silverware than ever before, the new championship format will also pose a unique set of challenges.
Will teams now experiment more in the League knowing they’ll have more championship matches to play?
Will managers cut their cloth to suit by fielding different teams for different matches and even take some games more seriously than others?
“It's going to be very interesting,” said Cody. “There's huge competition and terrific teams out there and there's a different format out there too so it's going to be new ground for everybody.
“It's going to be a challenge to get the balance right. But I think, at the end of the day, once competition starts, competition starts. And it's very difficult to pick and choose about will we really give it everything this Sunday and not the following Sunday.
“Because I think the competitive nature of the players once they're on the field takes over. And every time a fella togs out and gets a chance to play he wants to make sure he gets the chance to play the next day again.
“So regardless of whatever kind of a thinking people in charge of the team might have about it, maybe we'll hold back a bit here or there, I don't think players can do that.
“If a player holds back, it's a worry. And I certainly would not be interested in holding back at any stage of whatever match we're playing.”
One thing is certainly clear, Brian Cody’s competitive flame is burning as bright now as it ever has since he first took charge of the Kilkenny senior team 19 years ago.
The 2018 season is almost upon us, and he’s excited by that prospect.
“If you don't get excited and don't look forward to it and don't feel really, 'let's get going', then you should sit up in the stand and watch the game,” said Cody.
The draw for the Top Oil Leinster GAA Schools Senior A Hurling Championship Quarter-Finals is as follows.
Top Oil Corn Uí Dhuill Leinster Senior A
St Brendan’s, Birr v Borris VS
St Peter’s Wexford v Kilkenny CBS
Good Counsel, Wexford v Group Team Winners
Castlecomer C.S. v St Kieran’s College
Matches take place Wednesday, December 13, 2017