From the game’s most decorated manager, it was flattering praise indeed. When asked how much he rated Clare, Brian Cody was quick to acclaim last Sunday’s opponents.
“Highly, very highly, absolutely. Apart from today’s match, you look at the Clare panel and I even said it last week that they will be on everybody’s radar to be up there for whatever is given out at the end of the year. They proved that last year, as they were only a stone’s throw away from it so I rate them very highly,” he stated.
Therefore, despite suffering a first defeat in eight National League matches that included a record ninth title under his watch, Cody wasn’t overly perturbed to be edged out by their hosts on Sunday afternoon.
Instead of lamenting a strong finish that saw his side come up agonisingly short after slashing an eight-point deficit to just one with a goal at the death, he proclaimed to be relatively happy with their latest evaluation.
“We got a very late goal, I suppose, from that free from Kevin [Kelly] but, look, there wasn’t an awful lot in the whole game. Obviously, the two goals were crucial to them and they kept that bit of a gap between us but it was competitive to the end at the same time.
“We won last week and played decent but we knew coming down here that it was going to be tough. It’s always a challenge coming down here to Ennis to play Clare. We expected nothing less and we got a serious challenge alright.
“Clare were linking up well there and moving forward well and, overall, we couldn’t complain too much with the result. The goals, like I said, were crucial to it. We started off well and then the goal gave that bit of cushion the whole way through but, overall, it was reasonable.
“Of course, we’d love to have won the game but we didn’t win the game and we were competitive to the end so I’d be happy enough with that,” Cody said.
Considering the absence of the Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent and injured duo Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan, Cody did get to welcome back Padraig Walsh from the treatment table as a second half substitute, while also giving further big-game experience to his newer recruits.
“That’s the nature of it, that’s what you’d be hoping for. We’re trying to strengthen the panel and give lads as much exposure as possible and lads are doing their best to take that opportunity. Look, it’s all a learning process for our lads.
“Of course, it was good to get Padraig [Walsh] back on the field. He’s just lacking a bit of hurling practise but, look, he’s back on the field, which is the main thing,” he said.
The next rivals on his radar are All-Ireland champions Limerick, who knocked the Cats out of the race at the quarter-final stage in 2018.
“We’ve a break of a week now so we’ll get an opportunity to just get a bit of work done in the meantime. But Limerick are coming to Nowlan Park then and they are moving fairly well. We still have injuries. I’d say Walter Walsh could come into the reckoning. He could have come into it today but it’s just the beginning of February so we’re not taking any chances. Obviously, we hope that Richie [Hogan] will as well but we’ll wait and see,” Cody concluded.