Keher stokes Cork rivalry

KILKENNY legend Eddie Keher has stoked the fires ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final by claiming that he would not touch Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack’s autobiography “with a 40-foot pole”.

Keher insisted that Cusack’s criticisms of Kilkenny in his book are wholly unjustified and said that if he had received a present of the best-seller last Christmas, it would have gone “straight in the bin.”

And former GAA President Nickey Brennan also criticised Cusack last night for comments made about Kilkenny in his best-selling autobiography.

Brennan insisted that Cusack’s criticism of the Noresiders will haunt the Cloyne netminder for as long as he is involved in Cork-Kilkenny matches.

Keher added he has been left saddened by the animosity that has developed between the two counties in recent years and believes that some of the hard-hitting comments contained in Cusack’s book are “out of order”.

Keher, 68, won six All-Ireland medals, ten Leinster titles, five All Star awards and three National Hurling League crowns during a glittering career with Kilkenny.

The former corner-forward remains very close to the Kilkenny set-up and the Rower-Inistioge clubman rarely misses a match involving the Cats or indeed, a training session.

Keher explained that he grew up with a fierce respect for the many Cork opponents he faced on the field of play and added that he loves the attitude of Cork people to sport and life in general.

In Cusack’s book, Keher was name-checked once when the goalkeeper referred to him in the context of a disciplinary meeting in Portlaoise which followed the ‘Semplegate’ row involving Cork and Clare in 2007.

Keher countered: “I wouldn’t touch it (Cusack’s book) with a 40 foot pole. All I have heard about it, and maybe I’m wrong to make judgement, is third party things said about me and Kilkenny generally, totally out of order for a current player to make. He had a go at everybody as far as I know, including Tipperary players as well. He made very derogatory remarks about Kilkenny, statements that you wouldn’t even consider challenging.

“I absolutely love Cork people. I love their attitude to a lot of things and to sport and hurling. The stuff he has come out with is totally contrary to what normally comes from Cork regarding sport and people. It’s certainly different to my experiences of Cork people and former players that we had great battles with. I have huge admiration, respect and friendship with all of those lads but this fella is something different.”

Cusack famously referred to Kilkenny’s players as the ‘Stepford Wives’ of hurling and Keher admitted: “I have heard that — someone only mentioned it recently. The current Kilkenny team are an exceptional bunch of players. They just want to play hurling and love it. Issues like that (GPA) never came to the fore. They were very well looked after, I don’t know whether they’re any better or worse than Cork but they’re very happy with how they’re looked after. And if there’s anything else they need we’ll get it for them. They’re facilitated to play hurling, anything else is a bonus and there’s no need for the players to become involved in those issues that he (Cusack) was raising.”

Keher has detected an animosity which has crept in when the two counties have clashed in recent years and he admitted: “It’s fair to say that (they don’t like each other). It’s sad in a way. The present situation may blow over. It is so unusual for current players and one or two others to make statements like that and is has to fuel some little bit of animosity.

“It’s a pity that the statements have come from one or two players in that (Cork) team. They are very fine hurlers that we all respect hugely. It’s a pity that the whole squad would be tainted with statements that were made.”

Nicky Brennan also described Cusack’s labelling of Kilkenny as hurling’s ‘Stepford Wives’ as “ungracious” and “totally unnecessary.”

Writing in his weekly ‘Kilkenny People’ newspaper column, Brennan said: “Donal Óg Cusack’s book and his ungracious (and to be honest totally unnecessary) comments about Kilkenny hit a nerve, not just with the players, but with Kilkenny supporters at large. Those Stepford Wives comments from the Cork custodian will continue to haunt him for as long as he is involved in Cork and Kilkenny clashes.”

Brennan claimed that for Cork, stopping Kilkenny’s quest for a fifth successive title would mean as much as winning the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

“Cork is the one team which relishes the Kilkenny challenge more than other (possibly with the exception of Tipperary). Sunday represents a huge opportunity for the Rebels to quieten their great adversaries.”


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