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Brian Cody admits the loss of Michael Fennelly is a blow to Kilkenny's All-Ireland SHC ambitions.
Fennelly suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the All-Ireland semi-final replay against Waterford and is set to be out of action for up to eight months after undergoing surgery earlier this week.
Cody believes Fennelly was coming into superb form before his injury and admits he will be missed for the final against Tipperary.
"It's a huge blow for any guy involved in sport. The biggest game of the year and he can't play in it," said Cody.
"Obviously he's had a huge influence in us getting to the final. No about that. He has it all.
"He's been a huge influence for us for a long, long time now. He's put massive work in to it.
"He works on it every year and it hasn't always been easy for him from an injury point of view. This year, he has gotten a better run at it.
"He got a decent bit of work done early on in the year in the whole area of conditioning and physical preparation.
"He was coming into terrific form. The last day he was outstanding."
Kilkenny have coped well when they have lost big players in the past and Cody has moved to ease the pressure on Fennelly's replacement.
"From a preparation point of view, it happened in the past. We always talk about our panel and we have massive confidence in our panel," Cody is quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner.
"Michael Fennelly won't be playing but the fella who comes in in his place won't be expected to be Michael Fennelly. Just come in and do his job for the team."
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