rule breaker | 

Why Brian Cody was the greatest manager I’ve ever known

I’ve heard a legion of stories of how Cody was ‘The Man’.
Brian Cody era comes to an end

Brian Cody era comes to an end© Brian Cody era comes to an end

Kilkenny v Galway - Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final...14 November 2020; TJ Reid of Kilkenny celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile...ABC

Kilkenny v Galway - Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final...14 November 2020; TJ Reid of Kilkenny celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile...ABC

Lar CorbettSunday World

Brian Cody was the greatest manager I’ve ever known, in all of sport, and he did it by breaking every rule that I ever knew about management.

All through my life, whether in business or in sport, I’ve believed that you get ahead by trying to get the best out of everyone by encouraging them, praising them, and working with them.

Cody went 180 degrees in the opposite direction and turned his beliefs into a mighty career that brought MacCarthy Cup after MacCarthy Cup to Kilkenny.

I’ve heard a legion of stories of how Cody was ‘The Man’.

How Kilkenny selectors would meet until the early hours of the morning to pick a team for a big match. But the team that took the field was the one Cody wanted, right down to the last man on the bench.

It was his way or the highway.

One of the worst defeats I had in my career was to Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland final, when Henry Shefflin goaled off a late free to beat us.

We went on an All-Stars trip to Argentina later that year and I was determined to find out, by watching the man close up, where he got that extra one per cent from, the one per cent that was the difference between winning and losing.

I learned absolutely nothing! Cody kept his distance from all the players, both his own and us from other counties.

When Kilkenny players might meet him in the corridor of the hotel or the foyer, it was as if they were meeting a stranger. He was the manager, not their friend.

Another story I heard was of a Kilkenny squad holiday to Miami after winning the All-Ireland. The legend is Cody was on the plane with them on the way out and the next time any of them saw him was sitting on the plane back home.

It could hardly be a true story, but yet you almost believe it. Cody didn’t want any personal friendship or relationship to get in the way of dropping a lad if that was the right thing to do for the betterment of Kilkenny hurling.

If 2009 was one of my worst days with Cody, 2010 was the best, when we beat Kilkenny in the final, stopped them doing the five-in-a-row and I scored three goals on a very special afternoon.

It was great to get a victory like that over such a great Kilkenny team and a great Kilkenny manager.

After being unable to beat them for all of the noughties, Tipperary had a good run against the Cats in the last decade, winning two more All-Ireland finals in 2016 and 2019. But Cody’s team still took all the beating every time, as the Limerick lads found out last weekend.

Maybe that loss was the last straw for Cody. His team gave everything, but they couldn’t beat a Limerick team playing without the great Cian Lynch. Were they going to do it next year with Lynch back?

I suppose at 68, and facing the need to build another team, Brian would have felt he’d done enough. He certainly has and it might just be the right time for someone to come in and try and do the impossible job ...

Who will take over from him, who’d want to? Well Henry can hardly leave Galway now, after just one year. Would DJ Carey take it, might Eddie Brennan get involved? Or will Kilkenny go for someone we don’t know, a low-profile person who might be able to escape the great man’s shadow.

That will be the hard bit for Cody who has kept Kilkenny seriously competitive even when they had not got the great hurlers of a decade ago. Might the mighty TJ Reid follow him into retirement after years of campaigning with the Cats and his club Ballyhale?

If TJ goes, along with Cody, it will surely be the end of an era.

One that began with surely the greatest and most accurate prediction in Irish sporting history. Ger Loughnane, then Clare manager, said in November 1998, on hearing that Cody was to be Kilkenny manager.

“We’re all in trouble now” said Ger. How right he was and how privileged we were to play against him and pit our wits against the greatest ever.


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