Cork hurling star Conor Lehane has revealed that captain Dónal Óg Cusack urged his teammates to focus on the 2012 season and not dwell on his season-ending injury.
Cusack ruptured his Achilles tendon in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final win over Tipperary and is set for six months on the sidelines.
But Lehane said that the skipper’s primary concern was for his team in the aftermath of the freak injury.
Lehane said: “We are very disappointed for him and he’d be disappointed himself. But he’d be the first fella to remind you that it’s not about an individual, it is all about the team and how the team performs. The message at half-time when he got injured against Tipperary was to drive on.
“It’s obviously disappointing but you have to stay concentrating on the game and stay concentrating on performing.
“I’d say he definitely will have a role still with the team. He is such a big personality and such a big part of Cork hurling over the last number of years. He’ll be there with us but it’s time for other people to realise it’s time to step up. The other keepers (Anthony Nash and Martin Coleman) are top class and I’d have no doubts in them. They have their opportunity now and they’ll take it. I couldn’t speak highly enough of them.
“Darren McCarthy has come in as well. He was involved in the training panel last year and is a great keeper as well.”
Lehane admits he has relished the chance this year to be fully involved in the Cork senior hurling setup after his involvement was complicated last year with his Leaving Cert studies. Lehane, who is sitting his first year Arts exams in UCC at present, had a peripheral role last season but his availability this spring has been an integral reason as to why Cork have advanced to Sunday’s league final with Kilkenny.
“I have exams this week and next week but they are not too bad as I have a few days off in between, so there’s not too much pressure. I’m available for Sunday. Last year with the Leaving Cert there was always going to be that added pressure. I was injured for a month with my knee as well. I went to one training session a week and came in after the exams. Obviously there is a bit more free time now and I am enjoying it.
“Darren Sweetnam has been asking me for advice as he is going through it now this year doing the Leaving Cert. He is working away well and he’ll be grand. He will be a big loss for the Cork U21s against Tipperary. It’s unfortunate it happens to be on the same day the Leaving Cert starts but there are plenty of other good players there.”
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