Dónal Óg ready to embrace Páirc life and pays tribute to Fitzgerald’s success

Dónal Óg Cusack will be in the Clare dugout at the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the Banner take on Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but he hasn’t yet set foot in the revamped stadium. 

Though the former Cork goalkeeper agrees the rebuild was much needed on Leeside.

“An alarm might go off in the place if I was within a kilometre,” Cusack joked yesterday, to the42.ie.

“But, no, on a serious level, a good few years ago I saw the plans when I was captain of Cork and was invited down to take a look at it with Graham Canty at the time.

“I think it’s great for the area. That whole docklands, I’m involved in industry myself in Cork and would be conscious of the need for that side of the world to push on and would always have seen that whole docklands area as a sleeping giant.

“I was talking to Davy Fitz last night and he told me he was in the stadium yesterday and that it was beautiful.

“I think it’ll be a great day for Cork to have a new stadium like that opening up. It’s great to have two big hurling games there now. There needed to be a new stadium, absolutely, in Cork.

“Other aspects of it, time will tell.”

Wexford will also be in Cork for All-Ireland quarter-final weekend and Cusack admits he might easily have been in their ranks instead, following his old colleague Davy Fitzgerald, who he worked with in Clare last year.

“When Davy was leaving this year, there was a fair chance I was going to go to Wexford with him. Donal (Moloney) got involved, I worked with Donal.

“To be fair to Davy, if Davy put a gun to my head and said, ‘You’re coming to Wexford,’ I would have gone to Wexford.

“He was really mature about the whole process. He knew I’d only been in Clare for one year. I just didn’t like the idea that I’d be one year in Clare and then move again. It was very mature between Donal Moloney and Davy Fitz.”

And Cusack was quick to acknowledge what Fitzgerald has achieved in his first year on Slaneyside.

“I’ve been delighted with it. I know that a lot was made about it during our playing careers that we wouldn’t have been best friends and that we would have sparked off each other a couple of times.

“It didn’t reflect well on both of us the way those sparks happened at times but I was very confident that I’d get on with Davy. Everything that I saw about him, whilst there are a lot of differences in our character, we’ve had a lot of shared experiences as well.

“I actually got very close to Davy last year and I’d consider him my friend now. I’m delighted for him. Watching any of the Wexford games, I would have been shouting for him.”

Clare came out the wrong side of last Sunday’s Munster final clash with Cork, but Cusack says he was able to detach himself from the emotions of facing his home county and a sideline clash with his club colleague Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

“I know there was a certain amount made of the fact that I was involved and being from Cork and my connections obviously with Sully and so on.

“But I just wouldn’t have the capacity to get involved in that. When you’re a player you’re focused on your own performance and I always encourage players to be selfish. As a player you have to be that in high-level sport.

“But when you’re a coach it’s different. You have a whole broader set of inputs that you’re conscious of. Anything other than that, I just wouldn’t have the mental capacity or space to be giving energy to.”

And he paid tribute to the rapid progress made by Cork in Kieran Kingston’s second year at the helm.

“I think they deserve great credit. I think the management deserve great credit. I think Kieran (Kingston), is a fantastic person, he’s a great man. I played underneath Kieran. Obviously I played with Sully, Pat Hartnett again, Pat Ryan really good coach, Declan O’Sullivan, I think they’ve a really good management team and they deserve great praise. I just think they deserve huge credit and congratulations.”

Cusack also had his say on the growing debate about TV coverage of hurling after RTÉ pundit Michael Duignan was heavily critical that last week’s Waterford v Kilkenny qualifier was not available free to air. “I hear the whole Sky debate. To me, we’re a bit bipolar. We’ve no problem paying to watch the Lions.

“I think it’s a good thing. I worked for RTÉ and RTÉ are very important to the coverage of our games but I would have said this when I was working for them, I thought the Sky deal made absolute sense.

“You need to have competition in the market. It’s wasn’t as if every GAA game was on RTÉ because it wasn’t. Those are the facts of the matter.”


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