CORK goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack is out for the rest of the year after snapping his Achilles tendon in the first half of Sunday’s NHL semifinal win over Tipperary, but Cork coach Ger Cunningham insists the player’s career isn’t over.
Cunningham has dismissed speculation that Cusack may never play again after surgery in a Dublin hospital on Monday to repair the ruptured Achilles.
“I’ve no doubt that Donal Og will come back,” Cunningham told the Irish Sun newspaper.
“He has kept himself in great shape and goalkeepers have the tendency to have careers that last longer than outfield players.
“There will be no more determined man to come back from injury than Donal Og.
“It’s a serious enough injury and it’s a serious loss and makes you think sport can be very cruel sometimes.
“To get to captain Cork was something he was really enjoying and took very seriously, and so for this injury to happen to him now is very cruel.
“He was playing really well this year. We knew that the captaincy would bear lightly on him and he would use it as a form of extra motivation rather than weigh him down.
“He has always been a leader who carried himself well in the dressing room and being a captain came naturally to him.”
Patrick Horgan will now captain the Cork hurlers for the rest of the year.
The Cusack injury took the gloss off a sweet win for Cork over their Munster rivals at Semple Stadium.
Cork manager Jimmy Barry Murphy said, “It is a terrible loss for us. I am bitterly disappointed for him because he has been a great captain for us so far and he has done a great job.
“He has really been the players’ leader and he has done a great job for us.”
Cork will now meet Kilkenny in the league final. Defender Sean Og O hAilpin told RTÉ, “We set out our stall under the new set-up this year to get to the league final or as far as we can and we’ve done that.
“We’re in it now and we might as well try to win it. No more needs to be said on what is ahead of us but for the morale and the spirit of the camp this is just another game on.
“You can’t buy days like today playing against Tipperary and a league final in two weeks time. You don’t get many of those days out. People might find that kind of strange and that when you represent the Cork people you assume you get the big games every year.
“But that hasn’t been the case the last couple of years. The fans are coming onto the pitch and there is renewed spirit around the place. That is good to see.”
Tipp boss Declan Ryan admitted his side were flat against Cork.
“I suppose from a Tipp perspective it was a very flat performance. We never seemed to ignite at any stage during the game,” he said.
“The first half was pretty average hurling I’d say on both sides and we were probably lucky to get in level at halftime. It was very flat finishing up.
“It looked like, into the second half, we were getting back into the game but in fairness Cork looked a lot sharper than us today.
“We’ll have to sit down and have a look. Certainly, we didn’t overdo it in training this week. I suppose these guys have a lot of work done, but that lack of energy is a mental thing. It’s not physical.
“Unfortunately, it seems to strike at Tipp every now and then and when it does we can look very ordinary -- it’s something we have to guard against in the future.”
CLARE manager Davy Fitzgerald will be hauled over the coals after attacking referees in general and Alan Kelly in particular after Sunday’s NHL semifinal defeat to Kilkenny in Thurles.
His Clare team were well beaten on the day, but Fitzgerald decided to reserve his ire for the match official.
“I honestly believe the referees have something in for myself. I just think it’s, ‘I’ll sort Davy out’ and that’s the story,” claimed Fitzgerald.
“I think a number of referees have that so I’ll be asking everyone to keep a close eye on the championship and see do they take it out on me and my team because it’s happened now on more than one occasion as far as I am concerned.
“They ignore me completely, maybe they mightn’t do it to Brian Cody or the Declan Ryan’s of this world.
“It’s just frustrating, we train hard, and three of the players came to me afterwards and said, ‘Is this f***ing right, we are bursting our arse,’ and it feels like outside there we are never going to get the rub of the green ourselves playing the likes of them.
“They are frustrated and I’m frustrated. We know we wouldn’t have beaten Kilkenny today, we wouldn’t have beaten them but it might have been a bit closer if that goal had not gone in at that time.”
Kilkenny boss Brian Cody stayed away from the controversy afterwards.
“Obviously, we’re very happy to be in the final. The heavy shower at the start of the match made conditions a bit difficult,” he said.
“The first half was very tight, very close and nothing in it. The goal we got early enough in the second half gave us that bit of breathing space. But it was very competitive and never easy.
“It was a really serious challenge for us. That’s understandable and expected as well. If we had been less than competitive, we would have been in serious, serious trouble.”
Cody did refute the suggestion that Kilkenny want to avenge last year’s defeat to Dublin when they return to the league final, this time against Cork.
He added, “We won’t be making up for last year’s because it’s done and dusted. It’s this year’s league final -- two teams are going to play in it and we’re one of them.
“We might as well be there -- that’s what we want to be doing. We’re very happy in general with the panel. Some of them are very, very good in fairness and I’d be happy overall.”
DUBLIN were well beaten by Galway in Saturday’s NHL Division 1A relegation playoff replay, but winning boss Anthony Cunningham called for a change to the system afterwards.
“I hope they look at the league system again,” said Cunningham. “No disrespect to any other team, but Dublin shouldn’t be down there.
“Hurling has improved so much in the capital. We need Dublin in the top flight. We needed all those matches in Croke Park under lights.”
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