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Brian Cody's 'emotional' goodbye and 'feeling as fit as a 24-year-old' at almost 35

TJ Reid said it was a shock to the players when Brian Cody stepped down as Kilkenny manager.

TJ REID SAYS he first suspected that Brian Cody might be considering his position as Kilkenny manager when he heard rumours in the immediate aftermath of the All-Ireland final.

t-j-reid Kilkenny's TJ Reid. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In all his years of inter-county service, it was unusual for Reid to hear such speculation so soon after the conclusion of their campaign. Cody put all rumours to bed when he eventually announced his departure as Kilkenny boss on the eve of the All-Ireland football final. The James Stephens clubman, who first took charge of the Cats in 1998, steps down after an incredible stint in which he guided his county to 11 All-Ireland SHC crowns.

Cody informed the county board of his decision to step down, and also sent a separate message to the players on WhatsApp signalling the end. Reid needed two go’s at reading the message before he could fully compute the words.

“Whatsapp is big these days so he sent a personal message to all the players before the announcement was made,” Reid recalls. “The Whatsapp group can be a daunting place every year because you get lads messaging in to retire so we went through a good few retirements in the last couple of years.

“Look, it’s emotional stuff. These guys give everything to the jersey and you become great friends with these people. And Brian is the leader of us all and you’d have to look at it twice to believe it and make sure that it was from Brian. It was a sad day for us all and we all acknowledged his workrate for Kilkenny and the county board. It was an emotional day.

“It was a shock to everyone I suppose, a shock to all the players as well because he’s managed great players. All the players one to 45 looking up to Brian Cody. They all wanted – since they were 10-years-old – to play for Brian Cody. Those players got the opportunity to do it.

“I had 16 seasons with him. Some lads only had one season with him. He’s going to be a huge loss around the dressing room.”

Reid added:

“He’s done extraordinary things with Kilkenny. He did extraordinary things this year with Kilkenny because we were written off badly this year. He formed a team this year to allow us compete, and allow us get back to an All-Ireland final, and he did that.

“I think he’s done an excellent job for the next manager coming. Maybe he thought, ‘Right, there’s a future here now, maybe it’s time for the next manager to come in, and drive things on’.

“He’s left Kilkenny hurling in a great place. The mentality that’s there, the attitude around the dressing room, he’s built standards that have to be kept. The players will always respond to that. The new manager that comes in, I suppose it’s going to be a difficult time for him.”

The next Kilkenny manager will have a considerable job to face as they take on the task of being Cody’s successor. Reid knows there are several worthy candidates who could come in to assume the throne but has no inclination as to who Cody’s replacement will be.

“Look, there’s loads of names out there and if we can take them all, then great. I don’t know and that’s the county board’s job to pick the right man for the job. It’s all about the players at the end of the day and they contribute massively to the cause. The manager’s job is to motivate and support us with whatever we need to do.

brian-cody-dejected-after-the-game Brian Cody has brought the curtain down on his 24 years as Kilkenny boss. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“You have 40 players arriving for training, all eager to train and all want to win, so the next manager coming in has 40 ambitious lads that want to succeed and win. Next year is going to be exciting and it’s a good team there. In one way, we’re mourning the loss of Brian Cody but I think next year is going to be exciting for Kilkenny and I’m looking forward to it.”

Reid is heading for his 35th birthday and endured some horrible injury trouble last year. He suffered a torn groin in the Kilkenny SHC final where Ballyhale Shamrocks defeated O’Loughlin Gaels to win their fourth consecutive county championship. 

Reid persevered through their Leinster campaign, which he admits “wasn’t the smartest move” as Ballyhale added provincial honours to their county success.

“Along with that spell then,” Reid continues, “I picked up osteitis pubis, which is when your pubic bone gets inflamed. So I had two injuries then, I had my torn groin and then I had that too.

“So I got the scan over Christmas then and went to a specialist and I was basically told that for me to play in that All-Ireland semi-final against St Thomas’, that I’d have to stop for six weeks, not to train before it.”

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Reid continued to manage his training load up to the All-Ireland final where they were narrowly edged out by a late goal by Waterford’s Ballygunner before getting an injection into the pubic bone to reduce the inflammation. 

“I’d to take 6-8 weeks of rehab then so a complete rest. Lucky enough, I was away on my honeymoon for three weeks, so in hindsight, it was okay. When I came back then, I wasn’t really able to run until the osteitis pubis settled down for six to eight weeks – and then I had to go from zero to 100 over the next seven weeks before the county season to get ready for that.”

Reid, who runs his own health and fitness club, trained in the gym during that period where he would replicate the work he did on the pitch as much as possible. And with all that now behind him, along with a championship campaign which culminated in an All-Ireland final display, he feels better than ever.

“I told the boys that I’ll go for as long as I can. Once the body is able to take you there, and you’re injury free – touch wood… I’m as fit and strong now as I was back at 24. I’m 34 now heading into 35. I have great confidence in my fitness. That’s a huge help.

“Ah, look, it’s a long year until next year! You can’t predict what’s going to happen. Six months is a long time in hurling. I have club championship to get myself ready for.

“I feel unbelievable. I feel great. It was a challenge to peak for match-day. You can prepare your body. You can do stuff in the gym that’s going to allow you perform.”

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid was speaking in Croke Park to help celebrate that Littlewoods Ireland has rebranded to Very. Very is the proud sponsor of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship and the Very Camogie Leagues for a sixth year.

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