After 24 years, Brian Cody has stepped down as Kilkenny manager.
Cody's two-and-a-half decade reign has given observers ample time to consider the name of the person who'd have the honour of some day succeeding him. That day is now upon us, and the job seems both enthralling and imposing.
On one level, it is one of the most exciting job openings that has come up in intercounty hurling in years: the chance to manage a blueblood county with an endless assembly line of talent that pushed Limerick to the limit just last week. Perennial All-Ireland favourites coping with a sneakily-long seven year All-Ireland drought. There's plenty of upside.
On the other hand, the history of sport is strewn with the tarnished legacies of managers who've failed horribly after taking up the mantle from iconic managers. Eight years have passed and Manchester United still are trying to move on from Fergie.
So who's the best candidate to replace Brian Cody? There are more than a few good men.
Possible Brian Cody successors
Since the day he retired from intercounty hurling in 2014, Henry Shefflin was seen the obvious successor to Brian Cody. His massively successful spell with Ballyhale Shamrocks would have only bolstered Shefflin's credentials. But now, it's so complicated.
Shefflin's decision to take a management role in the Leinster SHC was obviously a thorny subject for Cody. Now that Brian Cody has retired, it's no easier for the King. Shefflin signed up with Galway last winter. It was a largely successful first term. After patiently waiting for a role in intercounty management, would Shefflin simply abandon the project at the very first opportunity? The circumstances are different, but Liam Cahill's move to Tipperary this month has been messy and Shefflin must surely be sensitive to the optics here.
A warrior under Cody, Fennelly has served two years as Offaly manager. The Faithful romped to Christy Ring success in 2021 and enjoyed a solid year in the Joe McDonagh this past season, finishing fourth in the table.
Of all the contenders, Brennan has the most experience in the intercounty game. If his Kilkenny U21 side underachieved, Brennan's spell as Laois boss was seen as a huge success, and he'd likely still be with them if the county board could match his ambition. Brennan was last seen coaching with Cuala, and one senses if the Kilkenny job doesn't go his way, he might be managing against Kilkenny with the Dublin hurlers next year.
No one has given the public a better insight into the psychology of Brian Cody than current Kildare manager David Herity, and so perhaps there is no better man to fill his boots. Herity's interview with the Dalo podcast during covid remains one of the greatest recorded hours of GAA storytelling. Herity has built an intriguing CV in management, first with the Dublin camogie team and now with the up-and-coming Kildare hurlers, who won the Christy Ring this year.
If the media got a vote, they'd surely be going for Herity.
The former Kilkenny midfielder is an intriguing candidate to replace Cody. Not only did he serve as a selector for Cody from 2014-2019, Lyng also steered the Cats to their first-ever U20 Ireland last May. With silverware at an age grade that frequently trips up Kilkenny, Lyng has proven he can get results and will have in-depth knowledge of the next generation of senior Kilkenny hurlers.
The sentimentalists favourite and once the odds-on to replace Cody. Carey currently manages the IT Carlow team in the Fitzgibbon Cup and has done god's work in the past getting the Kilkenny minor footballers back into Leinster. He also served as a selector to Cody in 2019. Given his iconic status in the county, he'd be a romantic option. But reports in the media recently about Carey's health might provide cause for doubt.
Another complicating factor: Carey's son Mikey is in the current Kilkenny squad.
Conor Phelan/James McGarry/Martin Comerford
All three won All-Irelands with Kilkenny and all three served as selectors to Cody in the three years. Phelan's CV is perhaps the most varied given his work in coaching in shinty and and the Kilkenny camogie team. Given the positivity around Kilkenny's finish to the 2022 Championship, it's plausible he could lead a continuity ticket.