At the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, while praising Henry Shefflin on his success with Ballyhale Shamrocks, Liam Sheedy quipped that the Kilkenny management conveyor belt was as efficient as that of their players.
It is hard to look past the 10-time All Ireland winner when musing over possible replacements for one of the game’s greatest managers but the notion of succeeding Brian Cody was one Shefflin had no time for when questioned about it afterwards.
He maintains that the inter-county role was not his motivation for pursuing a management role.
“I’m very happy where I am. I don’t know what way to phrase it, it’d be silly of me to say something like that.
“I wanted to go in with Ballyhale to see how it goes to see if I’d enjoy it and, yes, I do enjoy it and it was a very enjoyable year so and big learning steps so for me that’s it.
“I have a young family at home and look, the greatest manager of all time in Kilkenny hurling I think it’s a bit disrespectful to actually mention him leaving from my liking and I think people probably know the answer but they probably just like to say it a little bit. That’s, I suppose where I stand on it.”
Cody has seen and done it all since first taking charge of the Kilkenny senior hurlers in 1998. He has guided the Cats to 11 All Ireland titles, 15 Leinster crowns and nine National League titles, however, the role is only getting tougher with every passing year, especially given the changes in structure and the emergence of other counties.
However, Shefflin insists that Cody’s love and hunger for his role are as strong as ever despite all the new challenges.
“It’s his life, that is Brian’s life. He never got sidetracked with all that the high profile brought, he just loved going into Nowlan Park. He loves the challenge, he loves trying to build a team.
It’s different challenges now, he has never experienced anything like what he does at the moment. I don’t think it’s players, I think it’s the structure, it’s completely new. He’s had his club players going out and playing high-intensity matches where lads are getting injured.
“He now has four or five sessions to plan for a campaign that’s going to run off in five or six weeks but I think he loves that challenge.
“I don’t think there’s any secret to it. He’s a very competitive man, he wants to get the best from himself and from his players.”
Cody will certainly have a challenge on his hands when he sets into their Leinster Championship opener against Dublin on May 11 without key players such as Cillian Buckley, Conor Delaney and James Maher. However, instead of dwelling on the negatives, Shefflin believes this is a chance for other players to stake a claim on the starting jerseys.
“We talk over the years about the spine of the team and having it right, look at Limerick, they are very strong down the middle, that’s the challenge for Kilkenny. Who is going to be there? With Conor Delaney, who looked like he was going to fill one of those positions, now injured, no one really knows.
“It’s exciting because no one knows what this Kilkenny team is going to come with or who is going to be playing.”