Cody cites four-week break as key to Kilkenny's transformation
By Kevin Egan
It was a transformed Kilkenny team that took to Croke Park for yesterday’s All-Ireland senior semi-final clash with Clare, as the Cats produced a masterclass, particularly in the first half.
With the contest effectively done and dusted at half-time, by which time Kilkenny led by 1-17 to 0-6, the question on everyone’s lips was – where was all this during the Leinster championship, when Kilkenny stumbled through the group stages and then produced a workmanlike but unspectacular showing to topple Galway in the final.
Speaking after the game yesterday, Brian Cody said that his players thrived during the four-week break, highlighting how the game after game rhythm of the provincial system didn’t allow him to get a meaningful block of work done with the panel.
“Up to the Leinster final we were playing more or less every week, which gives limited time - no time, really - for training” he said.
“We have great emphasis on our panel at all times, so that (break) gave a chance to everyone on the panel to get out there and work for the team, to put their hands up to make a claim for a starting place.
“It’s about having that absolute spirit in the whole panel, where everybody respects everybody else’s opportunity - that if they earn the right to play they should play.”
Understandably, he was deeply satisfied by the quality of his team’s performance.
“Today’s performance came against an outstanding team in Clare who showed in the last two games, in different ways, the quality they have and the spirit they have, the real fight in their team and the skill level”.
“To be in the position we were in at half-time took a huge effort - honesty, skill, application, and everything else. In the second half the performance dipped a bit, understandably, because when you’re that far ahead you’re watching for the final whistle, but we tacked on some great scores”.
“When you’re on the sideline in Croke Park, there’s no communication between the sideline and the players on the field, so you trust the players completely. Thank God we have players we can trust”.
This victory shut down the prospect of three consecutive losses at the penultimate stage of the All-Ireland race, and that was something which Cody felt was a natural driving force for his players.
“We were at the same stage last year and the year before as well. We went out and performed and performed well and we just didn't make the final. Obviously that drives on players even further.
“I'd say that would be in any genuine sportspeople's minds at all times. You remember like we were here last year we didn't win it, we were here the year before. Everybody wants to get to the All-Ireland final and of course I would say in everybody's mind and everybody's heart, they would be saying, 'Look it lads, we can't afford this to happen again'. Because it's a tough feeling when you do lose it.
“We can't say we let the last two All-Irelands slip, because we weren't in them. Now Limerick and Galway is going to be a great game here in Croke Park, and we’re look forward to going to see how it goes, and to the final, which is just going to be a phenomenal challenge for us”.