Brian Cody’s retirement is as significant a moment in its own right as Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United.
Other men have dominated their teams and sports for more than two decades – 24 years for Cody, 27 years for Ferguson – feats that will not be repeated in any sport in the modern era. In fact, the way Tipperary recently parted ways with manager Colm Bonnar shows that point.
Cross-national teams and supporters are hungry for success, and managers are under what seems like increasing pressure to deliver quickly.
In the decades that Cody and Ferguson reigned supreme, their sport changed in more than literal ways from one century to the next.
The sport of hurling today is very different from the game that was played in the 1990s when Cody took over and again different from the 1970s and 1980s when he competed with distinction at the full-back position for Kilkenny and three senior hurling -Championships won as a player.
The transition from slingshot to the game it has become today is perhaps Cody’s greatest legacy, even beyond his silverware liberation achievements. As manager, he orchestrated 11 All Ireland titles for Kilkenny, emphasizing – some would say redefining – slinging in the process. For a time it seemed like Kilkenny could never be defeated under his leadership, particularly in the four straight years from 2006 to 2009.
And during that era, the skid evolved into a different form as a chasing pack of blue-chip counties tried to close the gap on Cody’s team. In doing so, the skid changed: the first-touch skills that made the game great were retained, refined for even greater thought speed, but added to this was a physical running game layered with tactical nous, with sweepers, short puck-outs and ball retention.
The recent All-Ireland final, Cody’s last game as manager, was epic. The game was breathtaking in large passages. Limerick are the modern team now chasing Cody’s record four straight titles.
The level of professionalism behind the current All-Ireland champion is evident, from the skill and conditioning of the players, the shrewdness of his management, to the dedication of the team’s most ardent supporter, JP McManus. None of this would have happened without Brian Cody. He and Kilkenny raised the game to a new standard, followed by Limerick and others.
Cody would have loved another All-Ireland title. In his senior year he looked more excited than ever on the sidelines, perhaps realizing the time was near.
The handshake controversy surrounding protégé Henry Shefflin was uncharacteristic, but perhaps typical of the sheer bloodshed it takes to be the greatest hurling manager of all time.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/brian-cody-hurling-bids-fond-farewell-to-greatest-manager-of-all-time-41862883.html Brian Cody: Hurling bids fond farewell to greatest manager of all time