Tonight Wexford will welcome Kilkenny to Wexford Park for the first of this year’s Leinster semi-finals. We take a look at the history of the two men patrolling the sideline – Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Cody.
There are very few men in the hurling world able to boast victory over Brian Cody. Ever since his arrival in 1999, it has been a rarity to witness the man disappointed from a defeat. It has happened however, particularly in the National League.
Davy Fitzgerald is one of just seven hurling managers to achieve All-Ireland glory since 2000. Fitzgerald guided his young Clare side to the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2013. Since then however, fortune has not been on his side.
These two managers first clashed way back in 2008. After a mid-season upheaval, Davy Fitz was appointed Waterford manager. It looked as though Fitzgerald was the Messiah as he did in his first season what many others failed to. He had guided Waterford to an All-Ireland final.
As Davy Fitz was starting out, Brian Cody was slowly becoming unbeatable. His Kilkenny side were now on the hunt for a famed three-in-a-row, and had no intention of being stopped. They had obliterated every opponent to date.
Unfortunately for Davy, things did not go to plan in the final. Cody’s side delivered one of the greatest All-Ireland final performances ever witnessed. They were crowned All-Ireland champions, and to add insult to injury, Brian Cody was awarded man of the match.
Davy would restore some pride the following year, defeating Kilkenny in the National League. This would be followed later in the Summer by a spirited Waterford defeat to Kilkenny in an All-Ireland semi-final.
Still, this was as good as it got for Davy. He failed to take down Brian Cody in any other game for Waterford, and in 2012 Davy decided it was time to move on.
Clare were a struggling side in 2012 when Davy arrived. They had recently been crowned u-21 All-Ireland hurling champions in 2009, so all hope was not lost. The side needed confidence however. After a mediocre 2012, Davy Fitz wrestled the All-Ireland title back from Brian Cody in 2013.
One huge factor in this All-Ireland is that Clare never actually faced Kilkenny. It was the only time in the Cody era where Kilkenny failed to reach Croke Park.
Many believed Clare’s first litmus test was in February 2014, as they would now take on Kilkenny. This was the game that would truly test their mettle. Davy Fitz was triumphant and recorded his second league victory over Cody.
Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he would have to wait until 2016 to get his next victory over Cody. Even more disappointing, is the fact that it would be a National League victory once again, albeit it was a semi-final. Clare blew Kilkenny out of the water on this day.
In this same time, Brian Cody had captured All-Ireland titles on three occasions, while also participating in the 2016 final. Cody’s record remained the most impressive in the game.
Still, Fitzgerald was eight years in inter-county management and had failed to beat Brian Cody in championship.
After leaving Clare last Autumn, Davy Fitzgerald was quickly offered a new position. Manager of the Wexford hurlers. Wexford, like Clare in 2012, were a side without much optimism, yet backboned by successful u-21 teams.
It’s early days yet, but signs are positive. Once again, Davy was able to mastermind a spring victory over Kilkenny in this year’s NHL quarter final. Can Davy finally land a championship victory over Brian Cody in tomorrow’s Leinster semi-final? Only time will tell.
Brian Cody nine wins; Davy Fitz four wins.
How does this compare with other managers? Here are the most successful managers to ever take on Brian Cody.
1 Liam Sheedy (v Cody) – 50% win rate
Sheedy three wins; Cody three wins
2 Donal O’Grady (v Cody) – 33% win rate
O’Grady one win; Cody two wins
3 Michael Ryan (v Cody) 33% win rate
Ryan one win; Cody one win; one draw
4 Davy Fitzgerald (v Cody) 31% win rate
Fitzgerald four wins; Cody nine wins
5 Anthony Daly (v Cody) 20% win rate
Daly 4 wins; Cody 13 wins; 3 draws
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena