An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

26 February 2009 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

More than a game BY MATT TREACY






The cutting edge of hurling

IN the course of an absorbing interview with Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ’s One to One, Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody, when questioned regarding the current dominance of his side and the perception (allegedly) that this is making the game boring or one-sided, looked just slightly irritated for the only time. “Sure, fairness has nothing to do with it,” he said, or words to that effect.
Not for him the Pollyanna world of there being no winners or losers or games of musical chairs where everyone still has their seat when the music stops. Fairness, for Cody, as for other honest sportspeople, consists of everyone having the same opportunity to win and having the same rules applied to them. Not in imposing handicaps on the best so that their competitors will have a chance of beating them.
The interview provided a unique insight into the mind of a man who generally has little to say and often gives the impression that he doesn’t particularly trust journalists, although that may well only apply to certain GAA journalists to whom he also referred when contesting the notion that Kilkenny play “on the edge”, which – as Cody well knows and the journalists in question well know – is really code for claiming that Kilkenny are dirty. Which they by no means are.
Indeed, it was obvious that on one or two occasions last year that it was other teams who introduced an ‘edge’ into their games with the Cats, if by edge you mean unprovoked assaults and generally putting oneself about when the ball was not there. It may have worked for Waterford in unsettling Tipperary but they were clearly wasting their time against Tommy Walsh!

KILKENNY are tough and physical and unrelenting. I met one of the Dublin players after he had played against them in the drawn league game two years ago and he looked like a chap who had been wrestling with grizzly bears. They use their bodies and their conditioning and their aggression legitimately and when you are subject to that for 70 minutes you will feel it afterwards.
That has brought the accompanying accusation that they have turned hurling into a less skilful game.
They have certainly taken the lessons of the hurling revolution to a new level – incorporating the higher fitness levels and aggression of Clare and Wexford in the mid 1990s – but that has not been at the expense of their craft.
Any county or any club wishing to improve their standards at whatever level could do worse than simply listen over Cody’s interview. Applying his approach and attitude is half the battle.

I met one of the Dublin players after the game and he looked like a chap who had been wrestling with grizzly bears

BUT just to prove that Kilkenny teams are not invincible, Portumna overcame Ballyhale Shamrocks in the club hurling semi-final last Sunday, and with a modicum of comfort it could be said.
Central to their efforts was that man Canning, of course, who ended up with a personal tally of 2-5. Remarkably, he scored in every manner possible: a  point from play, a goal from play, a goal from a penalty, a point from a sideline, a point from a free and two points from 65s! You could make an entire coaching video just by letting the camera run on him for the hour.
Perhaps the difference between Portumna + Canning and Galway + Canning is that Portumna are not actually as dependent on him and he is surrounded by players with a better understanding of one another. Nor is there any sense that the other Portumna lads are sitting back waiting for Joe to win the match for them which, whether strictly fair or not, was the impression some took from the second half of Galway’s defeat by Cork in last year’s quarter-final.
The other semi-final witnessed another agonising defeat for Antrim champions Cushendall, who were playing in their ninth semi-final. Only their fellow county men from Dunloy have been in as many and likewise have never won it although, unlike Cushendall, they have reached the final.
The Glensmen’s conquerors were De La Salle of Waterford, home of John Mullane, who are enjoying an unbelievable year having only won their first ever Waterford championship before Christmas. It is difficult to see Portumna falling at the last hurdle but De La Salle will be there under no pressure.

THERE was an interesting development in the Cork situation when the players met the clubs last Sunday.
While the initial meeting had supposed to have only included chairpersons – which would inevitably have replicated the verdict of County Board meetings – many more than that turned up and the mood of the meeting was apparently very much in support of the striking players.
That, on the face of it, would appear to strengthen the players’ case but there has been little or no public reaction from the other side who, prior to the meeting, had been claiming that the players had actually told another meeting that they would be prepared to play under McCarthy, something angrily denied by their spokespersons.
So, whether we are actually any closer to a resolution is anybody’s guess. The current Cork team, meanwhile, must go out on Sunday to face another inevitable hammering, this time from Galway.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1