Changing times as Cusack deemed surplus to needs

The door is closed to no player, according to Cork senior hurling team manager, Jimmy Barry Murphy, but unless one of the two current goalkeepers gets injured this year we have probably seen the end of Donal Óg Cusack’s inter-county career.

The door is closed to no player, according to Cork senior hurling team manager, Jimmy Barry Murphy, but unless one of the two current goalkeepers gets injured this year we have probably seen the end of Donal Óg Cusack’s inter-county career.

If it is to be the end, it is certainly not how Cusack would have wished to conclude his association with Cork hurling at a playing level. The Cloyne star would dearly have wished to announce his retirement at a time of his own choosing. Now that will not happen and I know he will be disappointed at the manner of his departure.

There will be people who are happy to see the back of Cusack given his involvement in a double players strike some years ago, but that would do a great disservice to a hugely committed player who was passionate about his hurling and prepared accordingly. Throughout his career he was a safe and dependable goalkeeper. In fact, he was one of the best to ever stand between the posts.

Injury a massive blow

Without doubt the serious injury (severed achilles tendon) he suffered last year meant he saw no championship action. That was a massive blow to him and this ultimately fast-tracked his departure from the 2013 Cork panel.

That injury left Cork with a real dilemma. The Rebels selectors firstly looked to Martin Coleman as Cusack’s replacement, but they had to quickly rethink that strategy. Next up was Anthony Nash from Kanturk, and lo and behold at the end of the 2012 hurling year he picks up the goalkeeping All-Star award.

Rather ironically it was Cusack, in his role as GPA chairman, who presented his fellow Cork man with his first All-Star statuette. It must surely have crossed Cusack’s mind that night at the National Convention Centre that Nash’s elevation to All-Star status meant the Kanturk player had to start as first choice goalkeeper in 2013.

With Cusack in his mid-thirties Cork’s long term goalkeeping strategy dictated that a younger player should provide the back-up to Nash. Cork, has in the past, carried three goalkeepers on its panel, so that was always an option for Barry Murphy and his colleagues. It was one they decided not to pursue.

A report in a Cork newspaper on Saturday suggested that the decision to drop Cusack did not have the unanimous support of all the selectors. As the speculation comes from a Cork source maybe it has some validity.

Used to motive players

Throughout the 2012 championship Cusack was used by Barry Murphy for his motivational skills with the players. The word from Cork was that the players enjoyed the input from Cusack. Unquestionably Cusack has the ability to be a future inter-county manager, and I suspect he would dearly love to lead his native county.

Right now the former star is occupied with leading the GPA. He is currently in New York with a group of players assisting with renovations following Hurricane Sandy. When he gets back to Ireland we may hear of his future plans.

For now, though, that will principally involve playing with Cloyne and assisting the club to regain the senior status which it lost last year. But aged 35 and with his inter- county career over, he can now start thinking of life after his playing days.

At senior level Cusack won five Munster titles and three All-Irelands in addition to two All-Stars. By any standards it is an impressive haul, but many will hold the view that disagreements with the Cork County Board on a couple of occasions left the county in disarray and ill-prepared for serious

competitive action for a few years.

Perhaps a more unified Cork camp at the time may well have seen Cusack and his colleagues land more honours at provincial and national levels. Cusack is a formidable leader of the GPA and has long championed the cause of player welfare.

It was well known that I was uncomfortable with the groups aims and ideals at one stage, as I felt they were looking to take the GAA down a road that had dire consequences for the ’Association. Under the guidance of Cusack and Dessie Farrell its stance changed and the agreement reached with the GAA is now benefiting both organisations.

At the Congress which gave formal recognition to the GPA, I appreciated the gesture from then President Christy Cooney asking me to formally propose the motion bringing the GPA into the GAA fold. While the final agreement was concluded without any involvement from me, I was pleased that the matter was finally resolved and all parties could now work in harmony.

Decisions to make

Aside from the involvement of any senior GAA figures in the negotiation process, both Cusack and Farrell deserve credit for ensuring that the final agreement remained solidly true to the GAA’s core principles of amateurism and volunteerism. Holding dual roles as chairman of the GPA and inter-county management at the same time is not possible.

So the Cloyne man has a decision to make regarding his future, but probably not for a few years yet. It would be a pity if Cusack’s role as one of the key protagonists in the various disputes which the players had with the Cork County Board would impact on his appointment as an inter-county manager, irrespective of the county or the grade.

I do not think that will be the case. Cusack’s attention to detail in his own personal preparation and his passion for excellence are the ideal traits for inter-county management. He has also demonstrated strong inter personal skills as head of the GPA and these characteristics are another essential element in managing high profile inter-county players nowadays.

One by one a once great Cork team is being dismantled as new talent takes over. Cusack’s departure is truly the end of a remarkable career.

He had his detractors everywhere, and in Kilkenny too, but no can deny that he was an outstanding goalkeeper who never gave less than 100%.