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Brian Cody Explains How New Championship Format Changes Kilkenny Approach

Brian Cody Explains How New Championship Format Changes Kilkenny Approach

Kilkenny have always been slow to move with the times, steadfastly holding to a belief that their way is the best way.

While Cork were thinking about how they could improve as hurlers off the field during the 2000s, doing mad stuff like eating pasta, Kilkenny were still dining on bacon and cabbage. Tommy Walsh admitted that as Cork were winning consecutive All-Irelands in 2004 and 2005, he was still having a full Irish breakfast five-days-a-week.

Slowly but surely, Kilkenny changed.

The introduction of a round robin format for the Leinster and Munster Hurling Championships has meant they, like the rest, have had little choice but to adapt their approach.

Whereas in years past there could be three weeks between games, this season they will come in a barrage. Kilkenny face three matches in 14 days to start Leinster before a 13-day break to the final game against Wexford.

"The reality is that before you would prepare for the first match and train for the first match and you'd play the first match and then you'd go away and train for the next match - now we don't do that because we can't," said Brian Cody at the launch of the Leinster Hurling Championship.

You train for the four matches now and you play the first match and then you recover and you play the next match, hopefully, and you recover again.

So you don't train in between matches now in the Leinster Championship this year because you can't, there isn't time.

The recovery period after the first game is going to take three or four days and it's a question of getting out for a few pucks so there'll be no physical contact or anything like that.

It has changed and that's going to bring us right up to June and that's the way it will be.

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The new format means squad depth is going to be more key than ever. Kilkenny expanded theirs during the National League, giving game time to young players like Martin Keoghan, Paddy Deegan, Richie Leahy, Conor Delaney and John Donnelly. In all, Cody used 35 players as he won his 20th national title.

"It [the league] took on an added significance for us because we were facing into a year where we'd be blooding a lot of new players.

"At the start of the league I would have said of course we'd love to win it if at all possible but we wanted to get as much game-time and experience into as many players as possible and it worked out well from that point of view and we did get to see a lot of players and a lot of players adapted to the game very well and went on to play really well to win the league.

"But we have players who have experience of playing National League hurling but Championship hurling is several notches above National League hurling and we have a lot of players who don't have that experience."

"I wish they were," replied Cody when asked if Dublin are a team in transition. Kilkenny face Pat Gilroy's side in their opening championship game on Sunday.

"Parnell Park is a hugely daunting challenge going to play Dublin there. It's a challenge to play Dublin anywhere.

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"We haven't seen the Dublin team this year yet. Everybody knows about Cuala and what they did to win two All-Ireland championships in a row, it's a phenomenal achievement.

"The players who are coming back from Cuala are going to strengthen Dublin in a serious way and the team that will play against us in the first round in Parnell Park, I couldn't even begin to predict what it will be, I've no idea what it's going to be.

"I saw Dublin playing against Tipperary in the league in Croke Park and for 20 minutes they were outrageously good. And when they put another 20 minutes together like that into the game they are just going to be so difficult to beat.

"We're absolutely certain about the challenges facing us. They know very well our preparation in the league, we were going flat out to win matches, they know our team from the league, I'm not saying it's going to be the same team that played in the league final but it's going to be along the lines of the players we have seen.

"We haven't seen Dublin with the Cuala players, we haven't seen Dublin with a full team. I know that they have a very serious team there, ready, willing and able to take anybody on."

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

See Also: Anthony Cunningham Impressed With 'Well Oiled Machine' Of Dublin Hurling

PJ Browne
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