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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Kilkenny star Conor Browne.
# Looking Forward
'Massive loss' for Kilkenny hurlers as Conor Browne steps away for 2023 season
Eoin Cody looks ahead to a new inter-county campaign under Derek Lyng, and Ballyhale’s bid for a Leinster hurling four-in-a-row this weekend.

BALLYHALE SHAMROCKS’ FORWARD Eoin Cody says the departure of Conor Browne from the Kilkenny squad is a “massive loss” heading into the 2023 season under new management.

News of Browne’s exit was first reported by the Irish Independent today, with Cody adding that Browne has informed the panel of his plans to travel in Australia.

Browne will be a major absentee for Kilkenny’s new boss Derek Lyng in his first year in charge after taking over the helm from the iconic Brian Cody.

“It’s a massive loss for the team and for the dressing-room,” says Cody. “Conor is obviously a brilliant hurler and he’s a great person.

“He let the team know and we all wish him the best of luck. 

“He’s heading off Down Under in January. He’ll be missed, he’s a great friend of mine and a lot of the team-mates.”

Cody is familiar with Lyng’s management style, having previously served under him at U20 level, while also looking on at the county’s All-Ireland triumph under Lyng at the same grade last year.

Cody knows that the next chapter with Kilkenny will be an “exciting” one but as one of the greatest-ever managers steps down from the sideline, he holds some regrets over what might have been.

“I suppose everyone was surprised,” says Cody about the former 11-time All-Ireland-winning manager’s decision to retire. “I was born after Brian was Kilkenny manager so I know nothing else other than Brian being Kilkenny manager. Then obviously to hurl underneath him was a huge honour and privilege.

“Obviously he left after this year’s All-Ireland which was something that was going to happen inevitably, but when it did happen, it was tough to take.

“Myself and the younger crop of lads never got to win an All-Ireland with Brian and that’s something we’ll probably always regret for our careers. It was an honour to play for Brian so I can’t imagine what it would have been like to win an All-Ireland with him.”

aib-gaa-club-leinster-hurling-and-football-provincial-finals Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE Eoin Cody of Ballyhale Shamrocks. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Before that new era gets underway with Kilkenny, Cody must maintain his focus on club-related matters with Ballyhale Shamrocks for now. The five-in-a-row Kilkenny SHC champions have a Leinster title to defend this Sunday when they take on Dublin challengers Kilmacud Crokes at Croke Park. Victory on the day would also see Cody’s side complete an impressive provincial four-in-a-row.

They booked their place in the final after overcoming a tricky start against Naas in last weekend’s semi-final, some nine months on from suffering All-Ireland final heartache against Ballygunner.

The journey back to the business end of the club season is a mark of Ballyhale’s resilience, but their hurling has been tinged by local tragedies, including the sudden passing of Cody’s uncle Paul Shefflin.

“Yeah, it’s been a tough year. It’s been a tough number of years the five years we’ve won Kilkenny on the trot. There’s been a lot of tragedy in the club. Obviously this year it was something personal for me and it was tough.

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“It’s probably something that has brought us all together in the club. It brings families together because everyone knows each other and we’re all there for each other. That’s something I don’t think will ever change in Ballyhale. Everyone is there for one another and they know how much everyone means to each other.

“The people we’ve lost haven’t just been anyone. They’ve meant everything to everyone, they’ve been really big characters in the club. Yeah, it’s been a tough year, but hopefully we can do them all proud, all the families proud, the whole parish proud.”

Reflecting on that agonising defeat to Ballygunner, Cody adds:

“It was something we hadn’t experienced in a long time. We were on the edge a couple of times last year but got over the line when we probably didn’t even deserve it. But the All-Ireland was probably one of our best performances all year and they nicked us at the very end like we had done to so many teams before.

“It brings you back to reality that it’s only hurling. You win some, you lose some and we’ve been on the right side of a few of them. We were on the wrong side this time and you take it gracefully. You don’t go off and sulk. You go with the head held high and we’re on the road again, hoping to get back as far as we can. This weekend is the next step.”

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