By Kevin Regan
Every success story has a defining moment. But success itself is manifestted on the back of very small margins.
Brian Cody is the most successful inter county Hurling manager of all time. His record as manager speaks for itself.
But even the great man himself was under the cosh at one stage.
Cody had guided Kilkenny to an All Ireland Final appearance in his first year as manager back in 1999 but they came up short in the final stages against Cork in a low scoring encounter played in dreadful conditions.
Before Brian arrived Kilkenny had also lost out in 1998 to Offaly with Kevin Fennelly at the helm.
This year Kilkenny are looking to win three titles in a row, but many people may have forgotten that the Cats were in line for a three-in-a-row of a very different kind in 2000.
Kilkenny went into the first final of the Millennium with scars of two previous failures at the very same stage, and memories of those defeats could very easily scupper a teams chances.
So coming in to the 2000 All Ireland Senior Hurling Final, Kilkenny were certainly under massive pressure to deliver and although it was only Cody’s second year in charge he too would have been feeling the heat.
As it transpired Kilkenny most definitely delivered on the day and trounced Offaly by 5-15 to 1-14 on a day where a future King by the name of Henry announced his arrival on the big stage by scoring 2-2.
Had Kilkenny not won that All Ireland Final then Brian Cody would have been very lucky to hold on to his job given the ruthless nature of Kilkenny hurling.
And it was that very same streak of ruthlessness which made Kilkenny the success story which they turned out to be during the 00’s.
It is these small margins which not only define matches, but also careers, titles and indeed era’s.
Many people may forget that Kilkenny were by no means the powerhouse that they are today during the latter stages of the 90’s with Clare, Offaly and Cork all coming to the fore.
Tipperary took the 2001 crown in a season which the Cats fell foul to a Eugene Cloonen inspired Galway side in the All Ireland Semi Final, so 2002 was also going to be a year in which Brian and Kilkenny would have felt the mental strain of expectation.
But pressure was something that both Kilkenny and Cody would learn to absolutely thrive under and after defeating Clare and Cork in the 2002 and 2003 finals Kilkenny were now becoming a real force.
Cork nipped in to deny Kilkenny their 3rd successive title in 2004, however Kilkenny returned the favour in 2006 when Aidan Fogarty’s goal led them to another All Ireland title.
The rest as they say is history with Cody leading Kilkenny to an amazing run of Four successive All Ireland Titles.
This decade has been kind to Kilkenny with victories in 2011,12,14 and 15 with Cody set to go down in history as the games greatest ever manager.
If ever there was a prime example needed to prove that success is hinged on small margins then that victory for Kilkenny over Offaly 16 years ago is certainly concrete evidence.
That title kick-started the Brian Cody era and by god are the people of Kilkenny eternally grateful for it.