MICHAEL CUSSEN has quit Cork’s senior football squad to concentrate on making the Rebels’ hurling panel in 2010.
Cussen has impressed in recent seasons at full-forwards for Sarsfields in the county senior hurling championship and the aerial ability of the 6’7 attacker would be a major boost to Cork coach Denis Walsh in the new season.
The 25-year-old was a member of the Rebels U21 hurling side in 2005 but since 2007 has concentrated on the big ball code at inter-county level.
Following discussions with Walsh and football coach Conor Counihan, Cussen, who didn’t start a game in this year’s championship but came off the bench four times, has decided to throw his lot in with the hurlers.
“I’m happy with the decision,” Cussen said yesterday. “Now I am focused on helping the Cork hurlers to win some silverware in 2010.”
Walsh last night admitted he and his management team have kept a watching brief on Cussen.
He said: “We feel he has a lot to offer. We have seen him over the last couple of seasons at club level and we know what he can do. He’s shown up fairly well in a trial game and, given what he has contributed to the Sarsfields set-up in the last two seasons in particular, he will be one of the players we will be seriously looking at when we resume training in January. We’d be hoping we’d be able to give him a shot at this.”
Football boss Counihan wished Cussen the best for the new season. He said: “I’d like to thank him for his efforts over the past couple of years with the senior footballers and wish him the best for the season ahead with the hurlers.”
Former Cork coach Bertie Óg Murphy, who coached Cussen with Sarsfields, is adamant the big man can be a big success in hurling.
He said: “Without a doubt. The big difference now is that he will be playing a lot of hurling. He has played really well for Sars over the last couple of seasons but was playing very little hurling in between matches because of his football commitments.”
Murphy insisted there is more to Cussen’s game than his giant frame.
“He has massive amounts of natural skill for such a big man. He is very accurate and is a good ball winner.
“I would expect to see huge improvements again if he is in training with Cork and hurling on a consistent basis.”
Though many are touting Cussen as a possible full-forward, Murphy believes that Denis Walsh and his fellow selectors should look further outfield.
“He is also a very good wing-forward. For the last couple of years Cork have been looking for someone in the half-forward line and I think he could do a very good job on the wing. On the way up with Sars he played in many different positions but I thought wing-forward was one of his best roles. He is a good hurler, one that will get better and better.”
But what of Cork pairing Cussen with Aisake O hAilpín (6ft 6in) in the full-forward line for a twin towers strategy which worked so successfully for the Kerry footballers?
However, Murphy remains to be convinced.
“I don’t think that the twin towers approach would work in hurling. People have copped on to that sort of thing and it is easier to counteract in hurling. What you could have is the two lads playing a similar role to Martin Comerford and Henry Shefflin in Kilkenny where they would be constantly switching and interchanging.”
The decision of Cussen to cease his connection with the football squad is indicative of the huge demands on dual players according to Murphy.
He reasoned: “The day of the dual star is coming to an end. The level of commitment is too great with back door games at club and county level. It is sad in a way but that is how it is.”
Meanwhile, new Clare senior hurling manager Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin has earmarked Shannon rugby player Fiach O’Loughlin for his Banner County backroom team.
Scrum-half O’Loughlin, no relation to the new boss, is a six-time All-Ireland League winner with Shannon and captained the Limerick outfit to their latest Division One success this year. O’Loughlin is a native of Cratloe in Clare and served as trainer with the local club this year as they won a first county senior hurling title.
Ger O’Loughlin is a keen admirer of his namesake’s training abilities and the link has been heavily mentioned in Clare over the past 24 hours. O’Loughlin is working hard behind the scenes to quickly assemble a backroom team ahead of a return to collective inter-county training in the New Year.
All eyes will be on the new man in Meelick on January 17, when Clare open the defence of their Waterford Crystal cup title with a first round tie against Waterford IT.
Local sources have insisted that 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland medallists Sean McMahon and Jamesie O’Connor will not be coming on board as selectors, despite being linked with positions alongside O’Loughlin.
Many of O’Loughlin’s former county team-mates during the glory days of the 1990s have been touted as possible selectors but the make-up of the Clarecastle clubman’s backroom team is not expected to become clear for a number of days.
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