DONAL ÓG CUSACK says Kilkenny will be a “massive challenge” for Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The Cork goalkeeper described the Cats, who are chasing five All-Ireland titles in a row, as “raging-hot favourites”.
Asked if Cork had as good a chance as in previous meetings between the teams, Cusack said: “People can be accused of talking up the opposition, but the facts speak for themselves — Kilkenny are going for five in a row, one of the greatest teams ever to play the game and it’s a massive challenge, but as a sports person and a GAA player, where else would you want to be on Sunday week?
“You’d probably have to think about previous meetings and think about those situations. For us it’s the semi-final of the third competition in the game, the main competition, and we want to win it.
“We don’t want to go through another season without silverware, but all we can do is focus on Sunday week. It’s a cliché to talk up the opposition, but the reality is they’ll be raging hot favourites. We’re under no illusion about the challenge that awaits us.”
Cusack paid further tribute to Kilkenny: “You have to give Kilkenny credit — I think they have taken the game to a new level. They have become comfortable at playing the game of hurling at such an intensity that other teams aren’t able to match.
“We have seen in games against Kilkenny that teams are able to live with them for 20, 25 minutes because there’s a certain amount of adrenaline but they aren’t able to go toe-to-toe with them for 70 minutes. They have become very comfortable playing the game of hurling at that intensity.”
Cork were hugely disappointed by their Munster final replay defeat.
“The replay was typical Cork-Waterford, we lost a number of players, and it became a real battle. When it goes down to the wire like that, you don’t want to lose it, because you’ve invested so much in it. It’s been a long time since I saw a group of people that down after losing a game.”
The goalkeeper also commented on having to wear his helmet this season.
“When it was coming in if I thought there was some way to argue against a thing or if I thought it was being brought in for the wrong reasons, would I be the first up arguing against it? Yeah. I just felt the people that were bringing it in were bringing it in for the correct reasons.
“You just had no control over it and you needed to accept it as early as possible. You’re putting something on your head that you haven’t had over the last number of years. There’s been maybe certain small things that would happen, for example, it only clicked six or eight weeks ago that you need to have a spare one of these because you have a spare one of everything else. Maybe that’s an illustration of not being used to wearing it.
“Wearing it on hot days is obviously a bit strange as well. It’s strange to feel that amount of sweat coming into your eyes. I would have worn it when we were out in Spain but I wasn’t actually able to train most of the time because I was injured. It caught me a couple of weeks ago when we did come into the hot weather that it was an unusual feeling, the fluid around your eyes. So it is different but the overarching thing is that we have to accept it.
“A lot of players actually train without wearing helmets. It’s a thing on a personal level I found strange. You go out in competition and you have to wear a helmet yet you don’t train in one then.”
Meanwhile, forward Richie Hogan has joined Michael Rice on the Kilkenny doubtful list for the All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Cork.
Hogan, who made a huge impression after being introduced as a sub during the Leinster final against Galway on July 4, picked up an ankle injury in training last week.
“It’s a major worry for us that Richie can’t train at the moment,” explained Kilkenny selector Martin Fogarty on the condition of the pacy Danesfort clubman, who shot a delightful point in the provincial decider.
“And we don’t know when he will be able to resume training. So with the semi-final less than a fortnight away, it doesn’t give Richie much time to get himself right for the match.”
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