Brian Cody was absent but still played a huge role in Kilkenny’s National Hurling League final win over Tipperary at Nowlan Park on Sunday according to Cats hero Michael Fennelly.
Cody did manage to watch the Kilkenny minors in action at the same venue on Saturday after his recent heart surgery but wasn’t present as the senior side won by 2-17 to 0-20 in a pulsating decider.
Fennelly won the man of the match award on his return to action after injury as he scored 2-3 for the Cats, and he later dedicated the win to Cody and the huge home support at Nowlan Park.
“There were a lot of factors behind that win, the boss man being out and the game being in our back-yard, playing our local rivalries. There were a few things that made it a great day,” Fennelly said.
After months out with injury, Fennelly was delighted and surprised by his scoring feats.
“I didn’t score that much before to be honest and probably you’ll never see it again. I got the breaks and luckily enough they went in. I don’t get them too often so I will take them when I do,” he said.
“A few of the boys stood up big time, the backs were awesome, they came out with great balls near the end. It was a whole all round great team performance. We had one or two injuries there again but lads just got on with things.”
Jackie Tyrrell also dedicated the win to absent boss Cody. “You would feel Brian Cody’s shadow about the place. There is such an aura about him that even though he wasn’t here you would feel him about the place still and hopefully is back soon,” Tyrrell said.
The hometown win made it extra special for Kilkenny star Tyrrell as a sold-out Nowlan Park hosted the league final for the first time since the early 1960s.
Tyrell said, “As a team we haven’t played a league final in Kilkenny ever and to see so many people out here made it extra special.
“I wouldn’t put it up with an All-Ireland medal, but it’s not far off it and there was a great buzz around all week. It’s extra special.”
Selector Martin Fogarty confirmed on RTE radio that Cody is on target to return in time for the championship.
“Brian’s doing very well now, thanks be to God. We’re hoping he’ll be back pretty soon now and he’s here in spirit with us, so we’ll look forward to him coming back,” said Fogarty.
The other good news for Kilkenny fans is that Henry Shefflin has resumed light training.
Selector Michael Dempsey said, “I don’t know when he’ll be back, it depends on how he reacts to the physio, but he is doing some work and is making good progress.
“Obviously with the injury it’s too early to say; it will depend on how he reacts to the training, how he gets on, and that’s impossible to say.
“Hopefully his reaction is good and we’ll have him back as soon as possible. He’s doing some jogging at the moment.”
No Regrets for Tipperary
TIPPERARY left Nowlan Park without the National Hurling League title on Sunday but manager Eamon O’Shea was pleased with their efforts in 2013 ahead of the summer.
The game was played at championship intensity as Tipp went down by three points to their fierce rivals, and O’Shea says that will stand to his team.
“In terms of where we’re at, we’ve a lot of ball work to do, speed work to do in terms of where we want to be, moving the ball under that sort of pressure, but it’s a brilliant game to have to be honest with you,” O’Shea said.
“I don’t know what it looked like but, to me, it looked like a high grade game between two teams, one playing slightly better than the other and the other one trying to stay in the game and that was us. If you asked me was I happy or unhappy, I’m not sure.
“It was a very good battle. It reminded me of some of the rugby games, you see two really good teams. Our guys did fantastic to stay in that game. I think the better team won the game.
“We’ve been trying to put together our game, trying to see how far we could get. Today was a big learning curve for us, that level of competitiveness so early in the season so I was happy with the league.
“We were up and down a bit, there were poor performances, there were bits of games that we wouldn’t be happy but you never know until you get out and play opposition like that as to where you are, that’s the benefit of these games. They were very competitive today and I thought we were competitive.”
O’Shea also praised wing back Kieran Bergin, who enjoyed an impressive senior debut in the blue and gold shirt at the age of 27 after several years in America.
“I think he was very good. In fairness to him, the first five or 10 minutes he was under severe pressure and then he settled down and got into the game,” O’Shea said.