It’s that time of year again.
Sports fans from across the globe will be trying to pick their favourite moments of the year across the wide-range of disciplines they consume day-in-day-out.
Sometimes there are so many options that it can become an overwhelming task given the sheer volume of sporting action that is on our television screens compared to years gone by.
However, there are certain times where the moment picks itself.
2022 was one of those years for Kilkenny hurling supporters.
It was just before 2pm on Saturday, July 23rd that the Kilkenny County Board released the following statement:
“Brian Cody has informed Kilkenny County Board that he is stepping down as Kilkenny Senior Hurling Team Manager. Appointed in November 1998 Brian has led the Kilkenny team to unprecedented provincial and national success and is regarded as the greatest manager in the history of hurling. As manager, his teams have won eleven All Ireland Hurling Championships (including a record-equalling four in a row between 2006 and 2009), eighteen Leinster Championships, ten National Hurling League titles, seven Walsh Cup titles and an Oireachtas Tournament title. In achieving all of this success Brian has created an unbreakable spirit among his players and teams which has come to define Kilkenny hurling.
“On behalf of Kilkenny people everywhere, Kilkenny County Board extends sincere gratitude to Brian for his lifetime of contribution to the county and the commitment and passion he brought as a player and as manager, working tirelessly with a single aim, to do what was best for Kilkenny hurling. The Board would also like to acknowledge the bond Brian helped create between Team Management, Players, County Board, Clubs and Supporters Clubs as all worked seamlessly together in preparing our teams while organising and promoting our games.
“We are aware of the huge debt we owe Brian for the wonderful successes and occasions we have enjoyed as we watched the teams he created play and succeed. Wherever and whenever our games are discussed in the future, Brian Cody’s achievements will be the benchmark managers will be measured by.
“We wish Brian all the best in the future.
Brian, Go raibh míle maith agat, guimis gach rath ort as seo amach.”
And with that, the greatest manager in the history of the GAA had decided that his time as Kilkenny boss had come to an end.
The weight of such a decision and its impact on hurling in the county is the reason why it is the undisputed moment of the year if you follow the Cats.
There was not one singular time in 2022 that made people reflect on the past, present and future as much as this one.
Following on from the initial shock and disbelief that overcame almost everybody upon the news breaking, it became apparent that very few stories in life make what has gone, the current time and what is to come reach the forefront of one’s mind.
It was hard not to think of all the success and memories that Kilkenny fans were spoiled with for the previous 24 years.
Likewise, your memory wasn’t stretched to go back six days prior when his last game ended in a narrow and heartbreaking defeat to Limerick in the All-Ireland final.
It was so nearly the perfect ending, but people quickly had to accept that there would be no crowning moment and Cody’s 11th and final All-Ireland success would forever be seven years prior to his departure.
And inevitably, thoughts and attention turned quickly to what the future of hurling in the county would look like without its most iconic figure at the heart of it.
It was a moment in Kilkenny hurling, and the GAA in general, that will likely never be matched.
On a par with nobody when it comes to his impact on a GAA code in a county, Cody’s departure spelled the end of an era for people on Noreside and beyond.
There are a sizeable number of people who weren’t born when the James Stephens man entered the fray in 1998.
For them, Cody wasn’t holding the position as manager until somebody else came along.
He was the manager.
There was nobody in the past to cast their minds back to, and the thought of the enigmatic figure deciding to hang up his peaked cap was not something that would ever happen in reality.
For younger people, there was something eternal about Brian Cody.
However silly or childlike that may seem, it was the truth.
He was as much part of their childhoods, adolescents and early adulthoods as school or the family home.
He was always there and was never going anywhere. An immoveable consistency during an ever-changing time.
For people of a certain age, he was the man who ended a 7-year drought for the holy grail and reigned in an unprecedented era of success in a county that idolises its most famous managers and hurlers.
For others, they remembered all he did as a player and manager, and acknowledged that it would never be the same without the great man involved in some capacity.
All that was left to do for all of those different demographic of Kilkenny supporters was to echo the words of his greatest ever player, Henry Shefflin.
“End of an era. Memories which will be treasured forever. Best wishes Brian.”
His exit was a story that happens once in a decade if we’re lucky, so when it does occur, it is beyond doubt the greatest moment of the sporting year.