Dublin’s decision to play midfielder Johnny McCaffrey deep in defence in the All-Ireland semi-final was probably the main reason for stifling a Tipperary attack that had free-wheeled its way through the championship up to then. But Kilkenny won’t adopt a similar tactic in the All-Ireland Final, according to their manager Brian Cody.
“We won’t be playing a sweeper, that’s all I can say. At the end of the day we will have a chance of winning the game if we play as well as we can play. Our focus will be on ourselves playing as well as we possibly can - that has always been our focus and it has worked reasonably well for us. Of course we are aware of Tipperary’s strengths and they are many, but at the end of the day if we just focus completely on Tipperary, we will forget the fact that we are decent ourselves”, he says.
This time last year Kilkenny were aiming for an unprecedented five in-a-row. Now they’re bidding to regain the McCarthy Cup and their manager believes that less hype has surrounded the team this season.
“Last year there was an awful lot of talk about five in-a-row. Then our injury situation became very high profile, there was a huge curiosity about it. But that’s just all outside the dressing-room and it’s not an excuse for last year. The difference is that we are going in as challengers this year for the first time in a few years and we are very much underdogs.”
Although he admits that the better team won last year’s final, he doesn’t feel that his side played particularly badly. “It was a very good game. They put serious daylight between us in the last five minutes alright but up to that there was only a couple of points in it. When you concede four goals it is very, very difficult to win the All-Ireland. If we leak four goals in this year’s final, we won’t win either”.
Not surprisingly, he’s eager to talk up Tipperary but insists that his praise is genuine. “We saw in the Munster Final what they are capable of doing. They’re an excellent team and the quality of their forward line is well chronicled. Their midfield is serious and their backs are just brilliant – they’re the complete team.
I know I’m supposed to say these things, but they are. They have strength in depth and it is brilliant to be taking them on. They are as tough an opposition as we have ever faced.
They continue to develop. They have real belief, real confidence in themselves and a real understanding of each other’s play. They are very strong all over the field; they have match winners and are not just dependent on one or two”.
And in his view, his own team aren’t too shabby either - “I think we also have an excellent team. I have massive confidence in the players that we have at our disposal and I would never waver in my opinion of their quality. I think we have a very good panel and would be very happy with it. Maybe some of that panel hasn’t been tested yet and wouldn’t have experienced the kind of atmosphere that Sunday will be”.
Kilkenny’s main injury worry has been corner forward Colin Fennelly but his manager hasn’t given up on the prospects of him starting. Speaking last week Brian Cody said “it’s touch and go, impossible to say. Time is short but he’s certainly not ruled out at this stage”.