John Horgan column: Kilkenny should not be underestimated against Limerick

But for the other Brian, it’s another huge achievement to get a team that wasn’t really fancied back into another All-Ireland final.
John Horgan column: Kilkenny should not be underestimated against Limerick

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody shakes hands with Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny after their side's victory in the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kilkenny and Clare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

KILKENNY may or may not end the season with the Liam McCarthy Cup back on Noreside but one thing is certain, they will not be underestimated in the final to the degree that they were by some against Clare last Saturday evening.

Most pundits had the Banner County carrying the tag of the more fancied team and that was based very much on how they had performed over the past couple of months.

Despite losing out to Limerick in an epic Munster final, they had been superb in the preceding weeks, a breat of fresh air really since the outset of the championship.

Their comeback against Wexford in the quarter-final after finding themselves in a lot of bother when they trailed by six points as the second-half aged in that game rubberstamped the belief that this was a very serious outfit that can cope with the most difficult of situations.

A close encounter with the Cats was the expectation in advance of Saturday’s semi-final but that never materialised at all.

In fact, the game had effectively run its course by half-time much to the great surprise of everybody, even those inside the great hurling home on the banks of the Nore.

If a poll had been conducted in the county before the reappointment of Brian Cody for another season it’s fair to suggest that there would have been quite a few dissenting voices, many believing that, despite his phenomenal record, the time had arrived for change.

That was never going to happen until the great man made up his own mind, in god’s name how could you remove a man with 11 All-Ireland titles to his credit.

Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny in action against David McInerney of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kilkenny and Clare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny in action against David McInerney of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kilkenny and Clare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But the doubts remained and losses in the round-robin series Leinster to Galway and Wexford didn’t offer any great hope of an extended Summer.

They subsequently lifted Leinster again, another three-in-a row achieved but it was not a mind blowing performance as they made up for that earlier loss in Salthill.

But they were where they set out to be, had a month to knuckle down to the task of seeing off whoever emerged from the quarter-final battles.

That, of course, was Clare, the Clare team that was reinvented after the Munster final loss when they overcame Wexford.

Well, it’s history now what transpired at headquarters, Kilkenny producing one of the most ruthless demolition jobs on the opposing team and in the process sending out a loud and clear message, we haven’t gone away.

This was another masterclass from Cody, one of the great All-Ireland semi-final performances from a team that he managed for many a long day and those days are many.

Since the 1999 loss to Cork, Cody has always done it his way. In fact, it’s his way or the highway as some players in the past have found out.

Some of the greatest hurlers of all time have accompanied him on a journey that now stretches to 24 years but for the manager it’s always been about the collective and not the individual.

Hurling has changed quite a lot over those 24 years but Cody’s mantra hasn’t, workrate and sheer intensity, the game’s basics are what gets you through the most searching tests.

Sometimes you have to settle for second best, as Kilkenny have done many times but the gospel that he preaches is constant.

Kilkenny were simply awesome last Saturday, they played as a team and not as individuals as Clare were doing.

Their ability to limit the effectiveness of one of the country’s great hurlers in Tony Kelly was a huge factor and he ended the game without scring from play As has so often been the case, TJ Reid made Kilkenny tick again and his place among the great hurling forwards was rubberstamped again.

Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Michael Carey of Kilkenny during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kilkenny and Clare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Michael Carey of Kilkenny during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kilkenny and Clare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

His brother Ritchie was a colossus in defence as was Huw Lawlor and the influence of the Ballyhale contingent was seen everywhere.

Adrian Mullen was superb, Eoin Cody too and if ever there was a collective effort, this was one Questions had been posed by some that there was too much chopping and changing going on with this Kilkenny team, that there was no great settlement there, unlike other counties.

But Kilkenny is no ordinary county and Cody is no ordinary manager.

He selects his starting 15 from what transpires in training in Nowlan Park and he had a month to assess things since the Leinster final.

Only a very select few are sure of their starting places and that’s why there is so much emphasis on those training sessions.

Perform in those perceived to be legendary sessions and you are in with a right shout of being included on match day.

For Clare, it was a pity that such an auspicious year should end in the manner that it did.

John Conlon was a significant loss but really would he have made that much difference on a day that Kilkenny played as well as any past teams from the county have done.

Only Shane O’Donnell carried the fight in attack for Clare and he was the only starting forward to score from play for an hour, a rather damning statistic.

They had 24 wides, more wides that scores and it will take some time to get past this loss.

But they have that time and it will be imperative that Brian Lohan stays on board.

But for the other Brian, it’s another huge achievement to get a team that wasn’t really fancied back into another All-Ireland final.

How long more will he go on, who knows but as it was at the beginning and as the end surely approaches, his players are still doing it for him.

Another title would surely be his greatest achievement, of which there are so many and you know something, there will be many that hope he does it.

Like all the greats, you just have to sit back and admire him.

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