01 Jul 2022

Joe Carroll: Cody and Shefflin have achieved outstanding success working in unison

Joe Carroll: Cody and Shefflin have achieved outstanding success working in unison

The now infamous handshake between Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin after the Leinster Final. (Pic: Sportsfile)

Inside Track has had nothing but admiration for Brian Cody. Same with Henry Shefflin.

What Cody has achieved in hurling has been phenomenal, mostly as a manager but also as a player. Before throwing the bainisteoir bib over his shoulders for the first time, the James Stephens clubman achieved outstanding success, most often lining out at full-back.

He made his senior inter-county debut in 1973, and was ever-present in the black-and-amber until he retired twelve years later. He won three senior All-Irelands, two National Leagues, and two All-Stars, in 1975 and 1982. In that latter year he was presented with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Before mixing it with the big boys, he won All-Irelands at minor and under-21 levels.

Great stuff, but it pales in significance when compared with what he achieved as a manager. Let’s begin this way: He was named the Philips Manager of the Year in 2003, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from UCC in 2012. 

And, after Kilkenny won the 2008 All-Ireland, he received a recognition bestowed on no-one else in hurling or football when he was named RTE’s man-of-the-match.

This ties in with what he has overseen on the sideline in the last 24 years. Aside from helping to foster the careers of some of the game’s greatest players, Cody has fashioned 11 All-Ireland wins, eight National Leagues and 14 Leinster titles. That’s a record, which, if it’s broken, won’t be witnessed by anyone reading this.

And those greatest players? Henry Shefflin is one. Along with being the all-time top scorer in championship hurling, the Ballyhale Shamrocks clubman has appeared in 15 All-Ireland finals (replays included) and finished on the winning side ten times. He’s won 11 All-Stars, numerous league titles and was named hurler-of-the-year three times.

The man known as ‘King’ Henry has also tasted success as a manager. After winning three All-Irelands with his club as a player, he twice led the Shanrocks to further All-Ireland wins, in 2019 and again the following year.

Having spent so long as manager, Cody’s future in the post comes in for speculation at the end of each championship season, especially if his side didn’t figure prominently in the tussle for the MacCarthy.  Is he going, or is he not? And if he goes, is one of his star pupils not a shoo-in to succeed him, given the success he has had on his managerial bow?

Well, Cody hasn’t gone, but Shefflin has – to take charge of the Galway team. It’s not known if the big man left with his former boss’s good wishes, but going on what has been played out over the past number of weeks –  in particular after the recent Leinster final, which Kilkenny won for the 17th time in the Cody reign, beating Galway – he may not have.

It was felt after the first championship Galway/Kilkenny meeting in Salthill a number of weeks back that the pair’s frosty handshake – straight from the Mick McCarthy-Roy Keane category – was caused by Cody being irked by a decision that went against his losing team late on. However, in light of the stand-off at Croke Park last Saturday week, for which Cody must take full responsibility, there may be more to it.

The Kilkenny boss’s decision not to immediately turn to offer his hand to his opposite number at the final whistle and instead make it on to the field to celebrate with his team, fellow mentors and assorted others left Shefflin in an invidious position. Do I hang around here to see if he comes to me, or do I go to him?

He chose the latter, and won loud applause from the crowd, many neutrals among which were more interested in what happened between the pair than the presentation of the Bob O’Keeffe Cup to the Kilkenny captain. If the greeting was warmer than that which we’d seen at Salthill it was because Shefflin made the greater effort.

Your writer finds all of this very sad. Here you have the greatest hurling manager of all time and, arguably, the greatest ever player. Each of them benefitted enormously from what the other had to offer in careers that ran parallel; but now that they are in opposite corners, the bond is broken, hopefully not beyond repair.

It could happen that before the MacCarthy Cup is presented next month, Kilkenny and Galway will meet again, maybe even on Final day. If it happens, it’s the hurling that should be first and foremost.

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