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McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


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Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin incident raises the question… should bosses be loyal to their native county?

Declan Bogue


Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and Galway boss Henry Shefflin shake hands after the game

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and Galway boss Henry Shefflin shake hands after the game


Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and Galway boss Henry Shefflin shake hands after the game

There are few photographs in sport quite as famous as that of the handshake shared between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy after the Republic of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup qualifier win over the Netherlands at Lansdowne Road.

Keane was marching off the field when McCarthy reached his hand out, but the Manchester United player barely looked in his manager’s direction as he reluctantly gave his hand and broke almost instantly.

On Sunday, we saw a post-match handshake between Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and his former player Henry Shefflin that was dripping in contempt.

Cody clasped Shefflin’s hand and when Shefflin turned to leave, kept a tight hold. Shefflin’s expression was one of instant puzzlement and when he faced Cody again, was subject to a silent eyeballing before Cody tore his hand away.

The whole thing lasted only a few seconds, but there was a huge amount to unpack.

As Galway manager, Shefflin had just overseen a one-point win for his adopted county that saw off his native county in the Leinster Championship.

When Shefflin became the Galway manager, it was a shock. It’s understood that Cody wanted his best ever player to become a Kilkenny selector but that was something Shefflin was uninterested in.

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Given how Shefflin played the game, the honours won including 10 All-Ireland titles, the question of loyalty in the GAA comes under scrutiny; should Shefflin have stayed loyal to Cody? Should Cody have shown a bit more loyalty himself?

Certainly, feelings have changed.

Shefflin was one of those rare birds who got to leave Kilkenny on his own terms. Not all were so lucky and that includes legends such as DJ Carey and Charlie Carter.

When Jackie Tyrrell was ruminating over retiring, he met Cody for coffee. Neither man actually ordered from the waiter that day and Cody made it clear that Tyrrell was yesterday’s man. They shook hands on it and Tyrrell was gone.

Anyone seeking to find clues to Cody’s ruthless streak, the one that has made him the most successful manager in the GAA, can find an extraordinary paragraph in Tyrrell’s autobiography, ‘The Warrior’s Code’.

Cody would frequently say that he cared nothing for “a settled team”. Instead, what he sought was “a settled spirit”.

It didn’t matter to Cody who was inside the jerseys. There would be no Klopp-like hugs.

And still, when Shefflin retired he was unusually warm in his appraisal, saying: “He’s done everything. He’s done everything, absolutely everything for Kilkenny. He passed comment himself, that he got absolutely everything out of himself. It’s not everybody can say that. It’s not everybody in any walk of life can say that — you couldn’t have done anything to get more out of yourself. He genuinely couldn’t have done a single thing to get another ounce out of himself.

“… His greatest legacy at the end of the day is he has set the example for every Kilkenny player for what it takes as he was capable of adorning the game but he chose to work as hard as any player who ever walked out on Croke Park to allow him to adorn the game and that’s something that is a great lesson for everybody.”

To be eligible to play at inter-county level in Gaelic Games, you have to be a resident of the county, or else work in another. There are no such restrictions on managing. For example, 11 senior county football managers — over a third — aren’t from the county they manage.

In hurling, there is a far greater desire to bring in managers from outside. Three managers from Tipperary take other counties in Darren Gleeson (Antrim), Liam Cahill (Waterford) and Darragh Egan (Wexford).

In Ulster, you have the aforementioned Gleeson, Antrim’s Terence McNaughton with Armagh, Meath’s Neil Cole with Cavan, Dominic McKinley of Antrim in Derry, Joe Baldwin of Kilkeel in Down over Fermanagh and Antrim’s Michael McShane over Tyrone.

Only Ronan Sheehan in Down, Arthur Hughes in Monaghan and Mickey McCann of Donegal manage their own counties. And it’s not a relatively recent concept. Former Antrim footballer Paddy O’Hara managed Fermanagh in 1958-59, Derry in 1963, Down in 1964-65, Armagh in 1965-66 and had a spell in Donegal in 1961.

Cody will have his sympathisers among the traditionalists. Either way, there will be another handshake in store if Galway and Kilkenny make the Leinster final.

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