End of an era as the greatest bainisteoir ever steps aside
BY NIALL SHERRY
There had been murmurings about a possible departure following Kilkenny’s two-point defeat in this year’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final; and the official news broke last Saturday afternoon via a statement from the Kilkenny County Board.
“Brian Cody has informed Kilkenny County Board that he is stepping down as Kilkenny Senior Hurling Team Manager. Appointed in November 1998 Brian has led the Kilkenny team to unprecedented provincial and national success and is regarded as the greatest manager in the history of hurling. As manager, his teams have won eleven All Ireland Hurling Championships (including a record-equaling four in a row between 2006 and 2009), eighteen Leinster Championships, ten National Hurling League titles, seven Walsh Cup titles and an Oireachtas Tournament title. In achieving all of this success Brian has created an unbreakable spirit among his players and teams which has come to define Kilkenny hurling”.
“On behalf of Kilkenny people everywhere, Kilkenny County Board extends sincere gratitude to Brian for his lifetime of contribution to the county and the commitment and passion he brought as a player and as manager, working tirelessly with a single aim, to do what was best for Kilkenny hurling. The Board would also like to acknowledge the bond Brian helped create between Team Management, Players, County Board, Clubs and Supporters Clubs as all worked seamlessly together in preparing our teams while organising and promoting our games”.
“We are aware of the huge debt we owe Brian for the wonderful successes and occasions we have enjoyed as we watched the teams he created play and succeed. Wherever and whenever our games are discussed in the future, Brian Cody’s achievements will be the benchmark managers will be measured by”.
We wish Brian all the best in the future.
Brian, Go raibh míle maith agat, guimis gach rath ort as seo amach.
The process of appointing a new Kilkenny Senior Hurling team manager will now begin. The County Board will not be issuing any further statement.
Having been appointed to the top job in November 1998, it would have been unthinkable back then that on the 23rd July 2022 we would only then be discussing Brian Cody’s departure as Kilkenny senior hurling manager.
His longevity, his ability to create and mold team after team, and that’s all before you get to his success. There is no doubt that the James Stephens clubman revolutionised the game of hurling. The golden years that followed Cody’s appointment may never be matched. Limerick are a great side, have won four out of the last five All-Ireland’s, but will John Kiely secure 11 Liam McCarthy’s before he departs the Treaty?
It’s hard to fathom anyone ever outlasting Cody and surpassing his 24 seasons in inter-county management. Over those years, the game has changed, evolved and become much more demanding of the manager. Not only the game has evolved, but players too. The whole S&C side of things, the nutrition, the sports psychology. The job that Cody leaves is much changed than the one he entered.
Yes, the Liam McCarthy is the bread and butter on Noreside, but under Cody, those on black and amber also achieved EIGHTEEN Leinster titles and TEN National League crowns. Brian Cody has always believed in the collective, the panel, never the XV or a handful of players. Under his stewardship, many players have flourished, some became legends of the game, others rightly awarded All-Stars.
The first player to be recognised and awarded the much-coveted All-Star award was defender Peter Barry, back in 1999. The most recent recipient being goalkeeper Eoin Murphy who picked one up last season. In total there have been over 100 All-Stars awarded while Cody steered the Cats ship. Given his teams performances this year, I have no doubt there could well be 2-3 additions to this role of honour.
All-Star’s lead on nicely to Hurler of the Year awards and Kilkenny had some eight different players given the ultimate individual crown since 1999. Legends of the game – DJ Carey, Henry Shefflin (X3), JJ Delaney, Eoin Larkin, Tommy Walsh, Michael Fennelly, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid. That’s more than a half decent ‘fantasy hurling team’.
To put Cody’s managerial stint with the Cats in context, DJ Carey was playing for him in the defeat to the Rebel’s in 1999, the bainisteoir’s first final as manager, while just a couple of weeks ago DJ’s son Mikey was in the starting XV that ran the might Limerick so close. Generational.
You wouldn’t hear the man himself talk much about his own playing career in the black and amber. The Village clubman won All-Ireland titles at Minor, U21 and Senior level. As a full-back, he tangled with the likes of the great Jimmy Barry Murphy. Perhaps I played that down – Brian Cody won 4 All-Ireland’s as a player, and captained his county to the Liam McCarthy in 1982. In an interview for RTE’s sporting documentary series ‘The Game’ Cody said that” I was a much better player than I’m a manager,” I have a feeling that this comment was typical of the man.
Cody’s hurling education began at St Kieran’s College where he went on to captain the school to provincial and All-Ireland glory. More success would follow while attending St Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra. Breaking through into the senior ranks of his beloved James Stephens club, Cody was part of a successful era for the Village, as they won an All-Ireland club title in 1982. Back-to-back Liam McCarthy’s would follow in ‘82 & ‘83. Some player alright.
Under his guidance, Kilkenny contested SEVENTEEN All-Ireland’s, winning ELEVEN of these. This incredible period of success included a 4-in-a-row between 2006 & 2009.
In terms of numbers, Cody’s record at UPMC Nowlan Park is impressive. 81% win rate at the home of hurling. When we shift to Nowlan Park North, or Croke Park as it’s known, the rate is a mighty impressive 74%.
Of the 282 league & Championship contested under BC, the numbers are the envy of many. Championship delivered 73% win rate, while the league wasn’t far behind on 70%.
Players. It will come as no surprise that JJ Delaney is the record appearance maker under Mr. Cody. TJ Reid probably stands the best chance of catching the Fenians star, he is only 12 appearances behind JJ.
On the club front, Shamrocks Ballyhale players have racked up the most outings under the legendary manager, with TJ contributing 132 appearances for the county champions. Cody’s own club, The Village have provided seventeen different players to Cody’s cause over the years, with Jackie Tyrell the main man on 144 run-outs.
The player with the highest win percentage under Cody? Michael Fennelly who was on the winning side 60 times out of 70 appearances.
Billy Ryan and Mossy Keoghan may have been the green flag raisers in this year’s All-Ireland final, but these two attackers have been called ashore more times than any other players during the Cody years.
A teacher by trade, he certainly educated those that he came into contact with, and as the tributes flooded the press and social media since the announcement at 1:54pm last Saturday, it is clear that the quiet man has left a lasting impact on many across the hurling and sporting world.
As the much-followed B-Cody account on Twitter said….
” Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”
Big shoes to fill? A drought to end? Only the best need apply.
THE VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER
By Oliver Goldsmith
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way
With blossom’d furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skill’d to rule,
The village master taught his little school;
A man severe he was, and stern to view,
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learn’d to trace
The days disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laugh’d with counterfeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he:
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey’d the dismal tidings when he frown’d:
Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declar’d how much he knew;
‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too:
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And e’en the story ran that he could gauge.
In arguing too, the parson own’d his skill,
For e’en though vanquish’d he could argue still;
While words of learned length and thund’ring sound
Amazed the gazing rustics rang’d around;
And still they gaz’d and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot
Where many a time he triumph’d is forgot.
• Thanks to Ger Cody for this!