Clare have laid down a marker for 2016 with the appointment of Dónal Óg Cusack as coach and selector, according to county chairman Michael McDonagh.
A delighted McDonagh believes the Banner county have sent out a message that they have the Liam MacCarthy Cup firmly in the sights next year on foot of manager Davy Fitzgerald landing his fellow former inter-county goalkeeper.
In a statement released via a PR company yesterday, Cusack’s appointment was confirmed.
As a result, he will be stepping down from his role as GPA chairman at the end of the year as well as relinquishing his spot as a The Sunday Game pundit.
He also announced the end of his playing career with his club Cloyne.
Speculation is mounting Fitzgerald will add another major name to his management team in the coming weeks but for now Cusack’s decision to join the 2013 All-Ireland winners has got plenty of tongues wagging.
“The marker is down now and our main aim next year is to win an All-Ireland,” enthused McDonagh.
“We’ve an exceptional backroom team put together and we’ve to let them go ahead now and do the business.
“He’s shown a solid commitment to Clare and he’s laid down a marker as to what he intends to do. He’s not resigning from RTÉ nor the GPA unless he means business. He has played hurling at the highest grade, he knows what it’s like to win and that’s what he will hopefully bring, that extra bit of steel.”
Fitzgerald and Cusack are two huge personalities but McDonagh has no concern about them clashing.
“I wouldn’t have any worry about that. They’re going for the one goal and that’s to win an All-Ireland. I’ll tell you one thing — it’ll be an exciting year ahead for Clare.”
Cusack is an open admirer of Fitzgerald’s style of hurling, praising both him and the team on several occasions on The Sunday Game over the past two seasons despite their early Munster and qualifier exits. He links up with Clare having last month guided St Colman’s, an underage side comprising players from his own Cloyne club and Russell Rovers, to the Rebel Óg Premier 2 minor title.
The 38-year-old became an analyst with RTÉ following his retirement in 2013. He leaves the GPA having been chairman of the official players body for over nine years.
“I am looking forward to the challenge and want to thank Davy Fitzgerald for the opportunity,” he said in yesterday’s statement. “Ahead of assuming my coaching position in Clare, I have met with RTÉ and following mutual agreement I have been released from my contract. I would like to thank RTÉ for the experience they have given me.
“I will be seeing out my term as chairperson of the Gaelic Players Association, which will come to an end this year. I have also spoken with my local club, Cloyne, to confirm my decision to retire from club hurling. I would like to thank the club for the support it has shown me throughout my career.”
Cusack is one of three new faces in Fitzgerald’s 2016 management team.
Broadford’s Aonghus O’Brien comes on board as a coach with Jimmy Payne joining Kelvin Harold as part of the strength and conditioning team. Michael Browne and Louis Mulqueen remain on as selectors with Seoirse Bulfin as a coach.
Fergal Lynch has left having been a selector since retiring as a player in the wake of the 2013 All-Ireland victory.
Fitzgerald commented: “I am delighted to welcome Dónal Óg, Aonghus and Jimmy to the set-up. Their collective experience and expertise will further strengthen the already high quality backroom team in place.
“Over the next few weeks, there may be one or two additions announced to the backroom team and the panel. It is my intention to finalise the provisional panel at the end of January ahead of the commencement of the Allianz National Hurling League.”
As was reported last week, Podge Collins returns to the 34-man provisional panel having spoken with Fitzgerald and will also make himself available to the footballers next year.
There is no place for Nicky O’Connell who left the panel earlier this year following a disciplinary matter before returning.
Clare’s 2016 SH provisional panel:
Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona), Donal Tuohy (Crusheen), Andrew Fahy (Whitegate), Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Seadhna Morey (Sixmilebridge), Jack Browne (Ballyea), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), David McInerney (Tulla), Pat O’Connor (Tubber), Conor Ryan (Cratloe), Conor Cleary (Kilmaley/Miltown), Ben O’Gorman (Wolfe Tones na Sionna), Gearoid O’Connell (Ballyea), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), Eoin O’Brien (Newmarket-On-Fergus), Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-On-Fergus), John Conlon (Clonlara), Peter Duggan (Clooney Quin), David Reidy(Éire Óg), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg), Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle), Darach Honan (Clonlara), Conor O’Donnell (Crusheen), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones na Sionna), Podge Collins (Cratloe), Conor McGrath (Cratloe), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones na Sionna).
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