Cody or Sheedy – Who’ll have been the happier manager leaving Croke Park?

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

KILKENNY AND TIPPERARY both shook off provincial final defeats to navigate their All-Ireland quarter-finals with varying degrees of difficulty on Sunday. 

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody and Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.

The Cats needed a titanic second-half display to overturn a half-time deficit and dismiss favourites Cork, while Tipperary beat Laois by 10 points but left Croke Park with more questions than answers ahead of a semi-final showdown with Wexford in a fortnight’s time.

You can be sure Davy Fitzgerald was carefully studying the proceedings and on this showing his side have nothing to fear from Tipperary. They look a long way off the team who won four from four in the Munster round-robin campaign earlier this summer.

Tipperary lacked an edge in the provincial final loss to Limerick and while the result was never really in doubt, they were far from convincing once again. They were well below the level to be expected from All-Ireland contenders in the middle of July.

While the other three All-Ireland semi-finalists have improved as the summer has gone on, the Premier appear to be heading in reverse.

Some important forwards are curiously looking out of form, particularly John O’Dwyer, scoreless and replaced after 53 minutes, and John McGrath who managed just a single point.

Liam Sheedy speaks to his team after the game.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Midfielder Noel McGrath (0-3) was Tipp’s highest point-scorer from play on an afternoon where they converted just 16 of their 29 scoring chances from open play. Of course, there’s a danger of overreacting. It was a lose-lose situation for Liam Sheedy’s side coming into this game.

They were expected to beat Laois – in action for the third time in 15 days – by double-figures with anything less deemed a failure. They’d have been on their guard after Laois hoodwinked Dublin a week ago, so complacency was hardly an issue. 

Worryingly for Sheedy, there was a lack of impact from the five replacements he introduced. Barry Heffernan was the only man to grab a point and Michael Breen was sent-off for picking up two yellows in his 20-minute cameo.

Fitzgerald would have noted how Laois’s sweeper system restricted Tipperary to 14 scores in the opening 40 minutes. Aaron Dunphy’s red card provided the Premier attackers with oceans of space in the final quarter which they exploited on the scoreboard. 

In contrast, Brian Cody’s team gave a most Kilkenny-like performance as they blitzed Cork in the third quarter that laid the foundations for their victory.

Huw Lawlor and Colin Fennelly celebrate at the final whistle with teammates.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Cats trailed by two at the interval but posted 1-8 in an incredible 15-minute spell after the turnaround to expose Cork’s shaky defence. They began the second period with real purpose, driven by the excellent TJ Reid from center-forward.

Cork went 20 minutes without scoring from play – partly from their failure to work any sort of decent ball into attack but more down to Kilkenny’s savage hunger for work all over the field.

And while John Meyler’s outfit responded with an unanswered 1-3 at the midway point of the half, Kilkenny managed to steady the ship and navigate safely home.

The half-time introduction of Walter Walsh proved pivotal. Dropped after a poor showing in the Leinster final, Walsh looked like a man possessed once he entered the fray.

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Stationed on the edge of the square alongside Colin Fennelly with Richie Hogan playing off them, Walsh fired over three points and set-up a handful more as Kilkenny went direct with their forward play. It was easily his best display in the championship.

Forwards Billy Ryan and Bill Sheehan looked lively upon their introduction and gave the Cats the impetus they needed in the closing stages. Kilkenny’s bench chipped in with 0-6, which compares favourably with Tipperary’s 0-1.

Padraic Maher is tackled by Eanna Lyons.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

After Alan Cadogan took the Kilkenny full-back line to the cleaners early on Cody shifted Padraig Walsh back to quell his impact. Cadogan still shaded their dual but Walsh managed to restrict the damage and hold him to four points.

Patrick Horan did his best to haul the Rebels over the line with a stunning tally of 3-10 (2-2 from play), but he’ll have to wait at least another year to claim that elusive Celtic Cross.  

The return of Richie Hogan for a rare start gave Kilkenny an extra bit of class up front. By the beginning of the second-half, four of Kilkenny’s front six were All-Star winners. 

The Danesfort ace grabbed 1-2 before his 50th-minute withdrawal. Cody will be hoping Hogan’s back issues are behind him and, with another two weeks of training under the belt, his fitness should come on another level for the last four clash.

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Kilkenny proved once again here that you write them off at your peril. Back-to-back Munster champions Cork were deemed to have played their provincial campaign nicely, sealing a third place finish followed by a tune-up game against Westmeath where they became the first inter-county team to scored 40 points in a game.

TJ Reid jumps highest in a pack of bodies.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Yet they couldn’t handle it when Kilkenny dialled up the heat after half-time. By this stage, Cody will already be planning for the reigning league, Munster and All-Ireland champions.

Limerick narrowly edged them out in the last year’s quarter-final in Thurles and went on to establish themselves as hurling’s top dogs. With Hogan finally looking to be free of his injury woes and Walter Walsh returning to form, it’s still unclear if Kilkenny have the smarts to take down the all-conquering Treaty.  

Who’ll be the happier manager leaving Jones’ Road this evening?

Cody undoubtedly, though he’s not the type that will be contented with a place in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Sheedy heads back home knowing Tipperary have got plenty of room for improvement – not the worst place to be going into a last-four clash. 

Perspective is important. The Premier are still just 70 minutes away from marching behind the band on All-Ireland final day.

They’re both still in the hunt for the big prize. Onto the next one.

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