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On Saturday evening Kilkenny qualified for their first All-Ireland decider since 2016 in what was a game for the ages against Limerick.
What makes their semi-final win all the more remarkable is that time and time again the Cats were written off as genuine challengers. Following their defeats to both Galway and Wexford in Leinster, Cork were raging hot favourites to turn over Kilkenny two week’s ago in their All-Ireland quarter-final.
However, despite the best efforts of Patrick Horgan, Kilkenny defeated their Rebel rivals before going on to beat the one side many thought were unbeatable heading down the home stretch – All-Ireland champions, Limerick.
Alas, here we stand on the brink of yet another All-Ireland final involving Kilkenny. Their 16th final in the last 21 seasons and the one constant throughout each one of those 16 successful seasons has been Brian Cody.
The GAA’s greatest ever manager.
21 seasons. 16 All-Ireland finals. 11 All-Ireland titles.
It’s a record not likely to ever be broken and one that only a major leader in its truest form could muster. That’s what Brian Cody is, though, the epitome of leadership.
However, where does this leadership stem from? It’s common knowledge that Brian Cody managerial credentials were questioned after being the only name put forward for the role of Kilkenny manager back in 1998.
“He was manager of James Stephens around 1996. In that regard, when he did come along and get the Kilkenny job, I just remember people commenting at the time that he hadn’t really been in charge of many teams up to that point,” Eddie Brennan told Balls.ie in 2016.
“I just know that at the time that it was kind of… not so much that it was an unusual appointment but it was an appointment made without him having set the world alight in other ways.”
Brian Cody was given the Kilkenny job when the county was at a low ebb primarily based on what he had achieved on the pitch rather than the sideline and it is easy to see why.
Cody is a natural-born leader. He won three All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championships as a player and in 1982, he made the famous walk up the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
However, it wasn’t the first time that Cody had made that famous walk. In 1972 (ten years before senior success) Cody captained Kilkenny to a first All-Ireland minor title following a decade long famine at the grade.
— GAA Nostalgia (@gaanostalgia) July 25, 2015
Under Cody’s, Kilkenny brought to an end an unwelcome record unbeknown to hurling’s most recognisable side.
Kilkenny’s success in 1972 paved the way for a new era at minor level. The county would go on to contest the next seven All-Ireland minor finals and since that day he first walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand, Kilkenny have had unprecedented success at minor grade contesting 23 finals in 47 years winning 13 and being known as the most successful county at minor level over the past 50 years.
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