Shane O’Donnell has praised the “absolutely fantastic” influence of former Clare coach Donal Óg Cusack.
Cusack’s two-year tenure bridged the Davy Fitzgerald era and debut year of joint-managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor.
However, Cusack stepped down last month after apologising for writing a character reference for Tom Humphries, who was jailed in October for grooming and sexually abusing a teenage girl.
Cusack’s position will be filled by Gavin Keary, who helped the Galway minors to two of the last three All-Ireland minor titles.
O’Donnell paid tribute to the outgoing coach’s impact on the training field, saying: “Donal Óg was brilliant. He was absolutely fantastic and I got on so well with him.”
He also expanded on Cusack’s role in Clare’s tactics.
“The broader sense of our tactics came from the whole management team rather than Donal Óg as such. It would’ve been a thing they agreed on and spent countless hours going through.
“I’m sure he had a stamp on it and he had his things he wanted to see that got in, but there was plenty of things that he would’ve liked or other lads would’ve liked that got cut because everyone had to be accommodated.
“It certainly wasn’t a Donal Óg show but he definitely had a massive impact on us.”
Cusack isn’t the only recent departure from the Clare set-up as 2013 All-Ireland winners Pat Donnellan, Brendan Bugler, Darach Honan, and Colin Ryan all announced their retirements in recent weeks.
It may mean an extension to the transition period in Clare hurling but O’Donnell insists the county still have the talent to recapture All-Ireland success.
“We probably would’ve considered being in a transition period for the last year with the (change of) management.
“You’ll miss not having those voices in the dressing room and they were amazing lads when they were on the pitch but we’re certainly good enough without them, and that’s not any disrespect to them — they would say the same.
“I’m pushing into my fifth or sixth year now and I would never have thought it would’ve been that long, but I’m suddenly becoming one of the more experienced members of the team, which, until these lads moved on, I wouldn’t have considered myself at all.
“Definitely the level of ownership we take of the team has to increase when lads like that move on.” A speaker at the Cork Science Festival event ‘Sport, Nutrition and the Microbiome’, O’Donnell added praise for his second cousin Conor Whelan, who collected the Young Hurler of the Year award and an All-Star to cap an outstanding year with Galway.
“It’s been a joy to watch him and have any link to Conor because he’s been in sensational form this year, but I never would’ve imparted any particularly significant advice that I could take any credit whatsoever for how he’s playing,” quipped O’Donnell.
As for Clare, they’ve resumed some light training to prepare for Sunday’s AIG Fenway Hurling Classic in Boston, where they face Tipperary in a semi-final.
“We’re doing a small bit of training for the Boston game but it’s all very enjoyable stuff. There’s no slog and there’s no running, or any of that kind of stuff.
“Training is training, you still have to drive back during the week for it, but it’s good. I’m enjoying it at the moment.”
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