‘It’s the same kind of feeling you get. You know this is important, this is special and you’re totally focused’

HAVING EXPERIENCED 17 senior All-Ireland finals as a manager, and 24 altogether when you factor in his playing career, Brian Cody knows exactly what to expect on Sunday afternoon.

No man has experienced the rarified air of hurling’s showpiece game anywhere near as much as Cody. It’s unlikely anyone will ever come close to his extraordinary record of dining at the top table.

But the James Stephens man admits he still gets those big-game nerves and this weekend will be no different. 

“It’s the same kind of feeling you get,” he says.

“There’s something very important on that day. If you’re playing a match you have that feeling for it as well, or whatever it is you’re going doing.

“Something massive in work, whatever it is. It’s just that you know this is important, this is special and you’re totally focused.”

One of Cody’s great strengths is getting his team up for the battle. Reigning champions Limerick failed to live with the ferocity of Kilkenny’s tackling in the semi-final, while their second-half blitz of Cork in the quarter-final was similarly impressive. 

“It’s a huge part of the game,” he says of the mental aspect.

“The importance of your head on the day is crucial. Everybody is physically prepared and everybody is skill-wise, you’re all prepared, but you’ve got to bring yourself to it and allow yourself to play.” 

While the game has tactically moved on over the years, Cody says little has changed in terms of preparation. 

“Not an awful lot, not a lot at all. Everybody can speculate and talk about differences and all the rest of it. Like I said, you bring whatever you bring.

“Essentially, you prepare well, the team has to be physically up for it and prepared well physically which they are.

“Mentally as well as everything else and obviously the skill levels, it’s the same thing – the fundamentals have to be looked after.

“I do believe that for certain. The fundamentals are – it’s a game of skill, first and foremost, it’s a game of physicality, athleticism, pace, energy and all of those things, commitment and determination.

“You can’t dilute those things. Then you can bring whatever tactics you want that you believe are going to help you to implement those fundamentals as best you possibly can. That’s every manager’s prerogative to do that. That’s what everybody does but the fundamentals are absolute in my opinion. 

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Cody and team trainer Mick Dempsey on the sideline earlier this summer.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While Cody acts as team psychologist, Kilkenny’s physical trainer Mick Dempsey is tasked with having the players peaking at the right time. The Laois native has been an integral part of Cody’s backroom team for the last 15 years and they’ve enjoyed tremendous success together.

“I just trust implicitly that Michael will prepare the team physically as they need to be. He has proven that many times and that’s what he does. I don’t interfere and tell him what to do. We talk about it and we’re obviously on the same wavelength.

“But if ever I felt something else should be done, I would…I’ve never felt it, I couldn’t feel it because I’ll say, What’s the story Mick?’ and he’ll tell me what he’s thinking of doing and I’ll say, ‘Off you go.’

“I wouldn’t even need to tell him that, he’s just very, very good at what he does.”

Tipperary provide the opposition, the side who defeated Kilkenny on their last trip to the final in 2016. Liam Sheedy, is one of a handful of managers who’ve managed to beat Cody in an All-Ireland final in the past.

The Portroe man will be hoping to become the first boss to defeat Cody in successive finals and record back-to-back championship victories over his rival nine years apart.

The Premier’s character has been questioned in the past, but Cody refutes the claim that they’re lacking in that department.

“I wonder who said that, I’ve no idea who said it because I don’t know what they mean by it. Lacking character, I’ve never seen it. Like I said when I referenced the last day, character is not something you switch on or off, it’s either there or it’s not there. 

“And if it wasn’t there in Tipperary in abundance they could have not have come out the way they came out in the last 25 minutes of the game the last day and played with the character that they played with. It’s either there or it’s not. 

“They’re excellent hurlers. Always have been and always will be I’d say as well. You know, I mean, Tipperary, no matter what you say, all you have to do is look at the last day. Down to 14 men with 25 minutes to go and playing against Wexford who were flying and the response from Tipperary was outstanding, what they brought to it. 

“And the confidence that will bring as a result of that as well is going to be massive for them. But, look, that’s no surprise in that they have all that ability and terrific skill, great experience. It’s a huge challenge for us, definitely.” 

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