Brian Cody’s choice of attire for Saturday’s All Ireland semi-final clash with Limerick was telling – a Kilkenny shirt embroidered with ‘All Ireland Senior Hurling Final 2015 – the last year the Cats lifted Liam MacCarthy.
It was clear that Kilkenny were determined to reach those heights again such was the ferocity with which they attacked the reigning All Ireland champions in the opening quarter of Saturday evening’s game in Croke Park.
Led by the magic TJ Reid and aided by Colin Fennelly’s 14th-minute goal, Cody’s side raced into a nine-point lead which Limerick were never able to fully claw back. It was a tactical masterstroke by Cody and his backroom team but the Kilkenny boss was happy to lay all the praise at the feet of his players given their immense work rate and character shown on the field.
“Look, it’s either in a fella or it’s not. You can’t send out fellas there that you know in your heart and soul are never going to be able to do that.
“The basic thing is you go out with total honesty first of all. You can talk about all the other things you like, essentially they’re in the county panel first of all because they’re well able to hurl, they’re good hurlers, they have plenty of skill and all the rest of it.
“And then it’s the application they bring and the honesty they bring and the sense of team they bring. Limerick are living proof of that with the way they won the All-Ireland final last year and they oozed it and we’ve done it over the years as well.
“I said it at the start of the year I had huge confidence in the panel of players we had. I know we had injuries but I continued to say I had huge confidence in our players. I still have because they’re very, very honest.
“We keep our feet on the ground. The only thing we’d ever like to think is that we’ll go out and we’ll work very, very hard. We’ve got nothing on any other team in the country and we have to at all times work very, very hard to stay competitive. That’s our ambition every time we go out.”
The team that have dominated the hurling scene over the past decade and a half went into the game as underdogs. They found themselves up against the Allianz League and Munster champions and the team which many assumed were a sure bet to become back-to-back All Ireland winners. Few backed the Cats to come out on top.
After the game, Cody quipped that there was no expectancy from either the public or the media but refused to say that the low expectations gave his side an edge.
“There was no expectancy from anyone here [in the media room] either that we might be successful. That’s understandable, I’m not trying to be smart by saying that because I always feel that the All Ireland champions are entitled to the respect of being favourites and that’s understandable.
“It wasn’t a question of freedom, they had to try and go out and throw the shackles off and play. But the opposition you’re playing is huge, you just have to go out and play the game in front of you. It’s not simple by a long shot, you have to be really honest to take it on and thanks be to God, they did.”
So Brian Cody will once again lead his Kilkenny side into battle on All Ireland final day in the hope of securing his 12th All Ireland title.
He will discover his opponents this afternoon following the meeting of Wexford and Tipperary in the weekend’s second semi-final and not-so-surprisingly, the 65-year-old has no preference as to who they will face.
“Would I rather play Tipp or Wexford in the final? I would be very happy to play Tipp or Wexford in the final because I know we’re going to, that’s for sure. It’ll be very, very easy to be in Croke Park tomorrow to watch that game, that’s a lovely day always when you know you’re in it.
“How difficult will it be to win the final? Massively. But we certainly couldn’t do it if we weren’t in it, at least we have a chance.”