Brian Cody: He came, he saw and he conquered

Brian Cody: He came, he saw and he conquered

When Brian Cody assumed control of his beloved Kilkenny, the county was in the clutches of perennial disappointment. Kilkenny - a County famed for its devotion to the game of hurling - hadn't tasted All-Ireland glory for five seasons.

Cody was not entering the scene off the back of some form of wizardry at club level and the county were at a time where they'd lifted Liam MacCarthy only two times in 15 years. The year was 1998 and few could have anticipated how his appointment would shape the GAA landscape.


"When you talk about standards, there's no point in talking about anything except the standards of excellence, absolute excellence!" Cody said during a Pendulum Summit in 2019.

"If we're training at 7-o-clock at Nowlan park in Kilkenny, I see it as my duty to be there, organized and ready to role at 6-o-clock," he added at the time.


These little details may seem simple, but when a man can craft his trade from the application of such simple ideals, the fundamentals will always follow in the same manner. For, without correct fundamentals, the more intricate details have little chance of success.

The great man's first taste of an All-Ireland final was a painful one, with his side losing out to Jimmy-Barry Murphy's Cork by a solitary point. It was the second year in a row that the cats fell at the final hurdle - losing out to Offaly the previous season. A stigma was beginning to develop in certain sections and the prospect of losing 3-in-a-row was a disgrace that far too many would simply refuse to comprehend.

As it turned out, Cody's Kilkenny had an opportunity to take revenge on Offaly the very next year and the result was never in doubt. The man had his first of 11 All-Ireland titles. Over the next two decades, the black and amber supporters would have to adjust to the nations envy - something they have etched to their hearts like a badge of pride.

Cody has installed an unbreakable spirit that ran through the players, to the management team and through each supporter. It was like that of the great Sir Alex Ferguson - who Cody was noted as conversing with and discussing tactical scenarios.


Very much like the great Scot, Cody was utterly ruthless in his pursuit of victory. It was never about a player; instead, it was about the end goal and the County adding yet another trophy to the collection. He would nurture talent and discard if/when he deemed it necessary. A trait that turned many a supporter into a questioner at times.

This unbreakable spirit was on display up to the final whistle. Somewhat astonishingly, his Kilkenny side entered his 17th All-Ireland final unfancied and as underdogs against an all-conquering Limerick side. It was almost poetic that a 63' Richie Hogan point would draw the sides level and had Croke Park holding its breath at the possibility of an almost acceptable upset.

Ultimately, they were edged out by a genuinely great Limerick side, but his players delivered a performance for the ages.

Six days after his men were defeated in that memorable final, the 68-year-old manager confirmed that he was stepping down. The Kilkenny statement confirming Cody's retirement, again referred to the unbreakable spirit he cultivated.

The James Stephens man time in charge is the stuff of legend: winning 11 All-Ireland titles, 18 Leinster Championships and 10 National Hurling League titles. In his time as County manager, he achieved a remarkable win rate of over 74%.

For the 2023 championship, a new man will step into the shoes of the great man. Change is inevitable and it has finally happened at the top. After a quarter of a century, it will be strange and surreal. As was the case with Alex Ferguson, all good things must come to an end. It is now in the hands of the faithful supporter to dedicate their time and ambitions to his successor.