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Cody and Sheedy in fascinating showdown

 

Cap fits: Brian Cody has his eye on more Kilkenny success
Cap fits: Brian Cody has his eye on more Kilkenny success
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

It was a somewhat quirky question that appeared on the journalist Shane Stapleton's (a brother of former Tipperary defender Paddy) video interviews at the Kilkenny press day that prised open another tiny insight into the private life of Brian Cody.

Even talking about a private life for Cody seems odd. This is a man who has spent most of his working life as a school principal, a very public figure in the city of Kilkenny.

He hurled at the very top level as full-back for 14 seasons. He has been the most celebrated county manager in the game in a role he has occupied since 1998.

It's very tempting to think that Cody is an entirely one-dimensional, stern figure who didn't even order up coffee in his final meeting with Jackie Tyrrell to inform him he'd be as well retiring from county hurling. But at home, far away from the madding crowds of Croke Park on occasions like tomorrow, he likes to pick up a hurl and belt a ball against a wall.

It's quite something to know that the childlike enthusiasm is still there.

Four years since they last won the Liam MacCarthy Cup, this is the longest drought Kilkenny have experienced since Cody took over as manager.

There is something very flavoursome indeed that standing on the other sideline of the fourth official on the touchline is Liam Sheedy as manager of Tipperary.

It was Sheedy who stopped Kilkenny's own 'Drive for Five' by winning the 2010 final showdown, before he abruptly quit ahead of defending the All-Ireland title, a most unusual move at the time but set in context by the claim that he and his management team were working 16 hour days between their professional careers and hurling.

Two very different characters, Sheedy is known as a players' man while Cody has always kept not so much a discreet distance to his players than a virtual canyon.

It is in the autobiographies of retired players nowadays that you truly get an insight into the inner workings of a team.

"You could be coming out with a ball but once you'd go past a player, you'd have no problem just belting him with the hurley and just carrying on," wrote Tyrrell of Kilkenny training in his autobiography, 'The Warrior's Code'.

"Brian always loved being in the middle of the anarchy during training matches, roaring and shouting at lads for even more anarchy, more war. 'There are some unbelievable scores,' he'd often roar. 'But this place needs to be a war-zone. There is no war here. WELL, BRING IT!'"

Sheedy has a career with Bank of Ireland and though there were many sources that suggested he would have been a smart choice when the job of Director-General became available in the GAA, he remained where he was.

Around that time, he answered a request by Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton to become involved in the Antrim senior set-up. His role involved around three monthly trips to the Dunsilly training complex and whet his appetite.

"There is no point in getting involved with a team unless you believe you can do something. I wouldn't have stepped back into this arena unless I had the energy for it, unless I had the support of Bank of Ireland (his employers) and the support of my own family," he said.

"There is nothing as refreshing as being out on a field on a Tuesday, Friday and over the weekend with a group of players who just drive at it 100 miles an hour, as best they can," added Sheedy.

Two men with insatiable drive. Let's see who gets it right on the day.

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