DEATH zone. Stepford Wives. Bears and bidets. Dónal Óg Cusack has been resourceful in articulating his views of Kilkenny. He’ll be hoping to show just as much ingenuity in assisting Davy Fitzgerald in drowning the Cats on Sunday, now that he shares the same sideline with him.
The least expected of Cusack will be to walk some of his talk. As a The Sunday Game analyst and Irish Examiner columnist, there’s been plenty of that from the Clare selector/coach about Brian Cody’s All-Ireland champions in recent years.
The Stepford Wives line aside, though, Cusack’s comments have all been substantiated. Naturally, his sound-bite that “Kilkenny don’t do tactics, the Pope isn’t Catholic and bears use bidets” was most picked up on from his analysis following last September’s All-Ireland final.
However, he had justified his sarcasm by highlighting, beforehand, how Kilkenny had as few as two players inside their own half, at times, against Galway. He also showed how they short-hand-pass their way into better shooting positions.
He added: “There’s this kind of myth out there that Kilkenny play a formation of 3-3-2-3-3 — nothing could be further from the truth.”
Even going back to Cusack’s playing days, his dealings with Cody have been few.
Nine years ago, they had a brief encounter at the breakfast table on the 2007 All-Stars trip to New York. Cusack recalled: “I said to him ‘I’m not much up for the small talk, or whatever’. In terms of my hurling career, he would be an enemy, but do I respect him? Absolutely, because of his achievements. You’d be a fool not to respect a man like that.”
Cusack had hoped Cody wouldn’t be there.
The year before, he and his teammates believed Cork could end the James Stephens man’s then eight-season reign. In his autobiography, Come What May, Cusack wrote: “We always felt that we could have finished Cody off in 2006, if we had beaten them in the All-Ireland final and completed a three-in-a-row run of titles. That would have hurt Kilkenny deeply and Cody would have been under pressure to go. Instead, we created a monster.”
If it took Henry Shefflin six years to admit Cusack’s Stepford Wives jibe irritated him, one can only imagine how much it infuriated Cody.
Although, the idea of bionic men all doing his will would sound quite appealing to Cody, or any manager, for that matter.
Clearly without intended irony, Cusack claimed in this newspaper, last September, that it would need that kind of super-human effort to beat Kilkenny.
“Any other county, sitting down this week and wondering about how to catch Kilkenny, needs to plan on doing everything harder than Kilkenny do, and for longer than Kilkenny do, and better than Kilkenny do. They need to sacrifice more than Kilkenny. They need to hate losing more than Kilkenny.”
Six weeks before he agreed to come on board with Fitzgerald, Cusack was claiming Clare could be that team. Likening Kilkenny’s All-Ireland second-halves to Mount Everest’s death zone, where the lack of oxygen makes the final stretch of climbing so difficult to overcome, Cusack wrote of the Banner: “2016 is year zero. They have a style of play which might just survive the death zone. For now, they need to worry about getting up that mountain again and having the right leaders for when the air gets thin.”
April offers plenty of breathing space. It’s merely base camp, but there is no little amount of acclimatising Cusack, Fitzgerald, and Clare can do on Sunday.
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