THE smile of quiet satisfaction on Kilkenny manager Brian Cody’s face said it all. But it wasn’t just quiet satisfaction. For Cody, this was a “phenomenally satisfying” victory.
And the man who has masterminded eight All-Ireland wins in thirteen seasons at the helm described this latest success as his team’s greatest achievement yet.
Stopping Cork in their quest for three-in-a-row in 2006 was sweet at the time but gaining revenge against Tipperary for last year’s final loss tops the lot in Cody’s eyes.
And the James Stephens clubman railed against the critics who wrote off his team after their National League final defeat against Dublin.
He was particularly unhappy with a newspaper headline which labelled his team as “Croker chokers.” Last Sunday, many a pundit was left red-faced and tucking into a large helping of humble pie.
Cody smiled: “Obviously it’s just the supreme feeling in sport for us. We were in the very opposite place last year. We had just lost it. So they don’t compare. There is a complete world of difference between both feelings obviously. It’s just massively satisfying. It’s a genuinely terrific achievement to have won it.”
He added: “I think it’s absolutely phenomenally satisfying because, if you like, for the past five years, we’ve been coming into All-Ireland finals expected to win them to an extent and favourites with bookies and yourselves probably.
“It was very much the reverse this year. Tipperary were the champions and deservedly so. We were questioned very much whether the thing was over for us and we were seriously in a different place completely in terms of the expectation levels of everybody. We faced an enormous challenge because Tipperary were outstanding champions and they had been turning on serious style and skill and exhibitions since then. Their ability to hurt you is immense. I would say for certain that the level we had played at up to now wouldn’t have been at all sufficient to win the game today. It took just a phenomenal effort from everybody since the All-Ireland semi-final to get together and decide where we were going, plan where we were at and take on the challenges - face up to the challenges of taking on the All-Ireland champions. To do that and to do it successfully - and to do it playing a serious standard of hurling - was an immense achievement for the players.”
Cody was pressed on whether or not this was his finest achievement as a manager to date. After a pause, the normally conservative former playing star let his guard down and admitted to a huge feeling of personal and collective satisfaction within the Kilkenny camp.
He beamed: “I would always say the present one is the best, because it’s the only one I can feel right now. But being honest this is by far our best achievement, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Cody also revealed that “huge thought” went into pre-match preparations as Kilkenny wondered how to stop what had previously been a red-hot Tipperary forward unit.
He said: “We sat down and we discussed it, we looked at Tipperary. It would have been very childish if we hadn’t. We did what we did and I think it was well thought out. The players are a huge part of that, as they were before in similar situations. To have the discipline then to carry out that particular job you are given is a serious test of any player. That happened in certain situations today and it was a seriously outstanding job done in an outstanding way.”
Cody lashed the doubters who questioned the ability of his team ahead of this year’s championship.
The Cats had flattered to deceive during the spring and fell to that heavy League final defeat to Dublin.
But Cody reacted: “If they were writing us off after that it wouldn’t have been a particularly clever sign of a hurling person to be honest. I wouldn’t have seen that to be very smart of any person who would profess to being a hurling person. And I’m not just trying to be smart - I think that was very naive of anybody to try and do that. As we sit here right now, we have lost one Championship match in Croke Park in six years. So to write us off after losing a league final would be insulting more than anything. It didn’t impinge on us in the slightest, because we knew where we were at the time. I’d been informing people for a long time of the quality of Dublin. I knew at the time that Dublin had a phenomenal amount of preparation done and they were in a serious place at the time. We weren’t as advanced in our preparation. Dublin are as good as us - don’t get me wrong. I think we are as good as Dublin too. But at the time we weren’t nearly as good as Dublin. Our preparation work went on from there. The reaction was crazy. I haven’t read the papers much since but I think one paper called us ‘Croker Chokers’ in a headline. It was a bit of a strange thing to say about a team beaten in one Championship match in Croker in six years. So the ‘Choker’ bit was a bit strange. Not being smart again, this is the kind of rubbish that comes out of it. We wanted to win the league final. But we were very honest with ourselves and we knew exactly where we were.”