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26th Nov 2014

Opinion: Kilkenny retirements hardly a shock as Cody builds for future

Kevin McGillicuddy

29 All Ireland medals quit the Kilkenny panel in less than a week

It would be fair to describe the reaction to Kilkenny’s retirements in the past week as less than a shock but more of mild surprise among the hurling fraternity both inside and outside of the county.

Brian Hogan and Aidan Fogarty’s announcements this morning were not greeted with the same disappointment as Tommy Walsh’s last week.

Hogan, at 33, was one of the elder statesmen of the Cats panel and was always likely to call it quits after this year regardless of what happened in 2014.

To lose his place for the final replay to Kieran Joyce and to then see the Rower-Inistioge defender be named man-of-the-match probably helped quicken the O’Loughlin Gaels man’s decision to hang up his boots.

Aidan ‘Taggy’ Fogarty’s place in Kilkenny history is secure thanks to his man-of-the-match display in the 2006 All Ireland final and his goal-changing cameo in the 2009 decider but since then we have only seen flashes from the Emeralds man and with Cody’s attacking options increasing every year Fogarty was often left warming himself on the bench.

But where does the absence of 29 All-Ireland medals, which includes the fourth retiree David Herity, leave Kilkenny now for 2015 and whom else might decide not to return?

Who could be next?

Henry Shefflin may lead the role of honour in hurling terms with 10 Celtic Crosses (mor on him below) but he is closely followed by both JJ Delaney (nine) and Jackie Tyrell (eight).

It would be a huge blow to the Kilkenny defense if either of their key lynchpins of the last decade were to walk away.

It seems unlikely for this season, especially with four players already retiring, but there is no doubt that as they look around a changed dressing room for next season they will see younger and younger faces staring back at them.

Cillian Buckley, Padraig Walsh and even Kieran Joyce all stepped up when needed this year and it would be a surprise if Cody doesn’t unearth at least one more defender as well in the Spring of 2015 to keep the competition for places up.

Joey Holden has starred for Ballyhale Shamrocks at full back this year while Lester Ryan will feel that after a disappointing 2014 at inter-county level he will be hungry to get back in to the starting line up for next season.

In attack, 30-year-old Eoin Larkin is the next eldest to Henry Shefflin and no doubt feels he has much more to give.

Michael Fennelly turns 30 in February and having played centre back for Ballyhale in their club championship exertions there is little doubt that he will feature for Cody for the next number of years either in defense or attack.

TJ Reid is 27, Richie Power will be 29 next month and Walter Walsh is only 23 and that’s not to mention the underage talent in the county from their All Ireland winning minors of this season.

The Shefflin question

It seems unlikely now that we will see any more retirements in the immediate from the Kilkenny panel but the talk surrounding Henry Shefflin will only increase as the months tick-on without firm news from the attacker.

For now the most decorated hurler in the game is playing club hurling and faces into a Leinster final against Kilcormac-Killoughey at the start of next month.

He has said he will make a decision when his club involvement is over but with the ‘Shamrocks’ looking like potential All-Ireland club champions it is more than feasible that Shefflin will be in action until next March.

Surely if he is involved post-Christmas with club it would be difficult for him to hang up his inter-county spurs but either way Cody knows he has options to replace the greatest hurler of all time when he does eventually quit.

Kilkenny won’t stop

Twenty-nine medals is an unbelievable tally to be extracted from a dressing room in just a week.

For most counties this would represent a devastating blow to any title ambitions, not to mind hopes of repeating the four trophies accrued during 2014.

Kilkenny are different though in that Cody has never had one star player to hang the whole team off of.

No doubt that Henry Shefflin has been a leading light during the Cody era but he had great players around him both young and old to help him through such as Michael Kavanagh, DJ Carey, Brian McEvoy and many more.

Kilkenny adapt and Cody has changed how he moulds his squad during a season now. Even if faced with more retirements the Kilkenny show will go on, with new names and faces filling the famous shirt in 2015.

It is the Cody way, it is the Kilkenny way.

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