Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Cody has no final agenda – go pull the other one!September 5, 2012 - 8:29am
IF Brian Cody had his way, the referee for Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final would basically keep his whistle silent and let the two teams at it. It’s not so much that the long serving Kilkenny manager is advocating a lawless struggle for supremacy, but he would definitely prefer if Barry Kelly isn’t a central figure in Croke Park.
Cody has already gone on record about his fears over how the All-Ireland will be officiated after their bitter semi-final collision against Tipperary. Though he feels Kilkenny got the raw end of the stick in the physical exchanges and their camp understandably remains enraged over the bad hand injury sustained by Michael Rice, he still doesn’t want a whistle-happy referee on duty against Galway.
The man who has already guided Kilkenny to eight All-Ireland titles claims that he has no ‘agenda’, but Cody is a wise old Cat and rarely strays into controversy. He pre-match and post-match interviews tend to be inoffensively bland, but when he has a cause to fight, especially when it comes to referees, there is no beating about the bush.
He demands that the Kilkenny players live on the edge in the physical exchanges and the James Stephens clubman is concerned that their approach might be compromised if Kelly adopts a strict application of the rules. Cody knows that the tougher Sunday’s final is, the better it will suit Kilkenny.
Like his squad, the Kilkenny boss is itching to set the record straight after their embarrassment in the Leinster final. It represented the third time that Galway have inflicted a championship defeat on the Noresiders during his protracted reign, but that recent July pummelling hurt them to the core.
They were never in the contest; were comprehensively outhurled; trailed by 16 points at one stage; only registered a single score from play in the opening-half; and came out second best in the intensity stakes – all things which are an anathema to Kilkenny under Cody.
It surely was a once off and having hammered Galway by 25 points in this season’s National League campaign, they were probably somewhat complacent for the Leinster final, especially having strolled past a Dublin team they had perceived as the big threat in the provincial semi-final. They possibly didn’t rate Galway and paid the price for it.
Yet, it would be insulting to the Tribesmen’s fantastic display to suggest the gulf in the scoreboard was largely down to Kilkenny’s attitude. Galway served up a magnificent exhibition of hurling which no team would have lived with on the day and, frankly, they could have won by more. It was almost perfection – both on and off the field. Cunningham, Kenny and Helebert rose superbly to the challenge on the sideline too.
Intermittingly down through the years, Galway have served up swashbuckling performances which had the opposition running from cover, but were generally found wanting when it came to following through. So far in the 2012 championship, the team has achieved a level of consistency which has taken them past the challenges of Westmeath, Offaly, Kilkenny and Cork. In no game, did the spectre of defeat really hang over Galway though the Rebels did keep the issue in some doubt for much of the semi-final.
They should also draw huge confidence from the manner in which they dismantled Kilkenny in the provincial decider. It wasn’t players in blue or gold, or red, or green jerseys which shook Irish sport in early July; it was players in maroon jerseys. Yes, Brian Hogan and his team-mates may have taken their eye of the ball, but some of Galway’s hurling was of a breathtaking standard.
We all know that Kilkenny will be a different beast on Sunday and two of their heavyweights, JJ Delaney and Michael Fennelly, who missed the Leinster final, are going at full throttle again, but it’s still hard to fathom why a number of Galway fans are so unqualified downbeat about the outcome. They can’t see anything other than defeat for the Tribesmen with some openly fearful of a drubbing.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.