Donal Óg Cusack joins Clare hurling’s backroom team
Former Cork goalkeeper to take up role as coach and selector under Davy Fitzgerald
Former All-Star goalkeeper will give up his role as a hurling analyst on RTÉ’s The Sunday Game to join up with Davy Fitzgerald on the Clare management team. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.
Exactly how or indeed why Donal Óg Cusack has joined the Clare hurling team as a coach and selector for 2016 is not yet entirely clear, although it makes for a fascinating combination. His role alongside manager Davy Fitzgerald is already one of the most anticipated sideline acts of next summer.
Cusack had hinted at dipping his toes into intercounty management at some point, although no one expected this: the former three-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper with Cork was briefly linked with some role with his native county, after Jimmy Barry-Murphy stood down, but that managerial position has since been filled by Kieran Kingston, who is still in the process of completing his backroom team.
In the meantime Fitzgerald clearly saw some role for Cusack within Clare hurling, who went the entire 2015 season with just two senior competitive wins.
It will see Cusack stepping down from his role as an analyst with RTÉ’s The Sunday Game, while he has also brought the curtain down on his club playing career with Cloyne.
Fitzgerald, himself a two-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper, has also added two further backroom team members in Aonghus O’Brien (coach) and Jimmy Payne (strength and conditioning), although Cusack is being given particular responsibilities as both a selector and coach.
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Cusack has also spoken about his new appointment, confirming that he had terminated his contract with RTÉ and informed his club of his decision to retire: he will however briefly continue in his role as chairperson of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), which finishes up at the end of the year
“I am looking forward to the challenge and want to thank Davy Fitzgerald for the opportunity,” said Cusack. “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 sincerely 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.”
As well as winning three senior All-Irelands, Cusack has won minor and under-21 All-Irelands, five Munster titles plus two All Star awards, his insightful and statistic analysis with The Sunday Game also winning him widespread plaudits.
His addition to the Clare set-up comes not long after Fitzgerald softened his stance on dual players, which has allowed Podge Collins return the panel for 2016, having opted for football only in the 2015 championship. For now, however, Collins is still recovering from a cruciate knee injury.
O’Connell did return later in the season after issuing an apology, while O’Halloran ended up joining the football panel. At the time O’Halloran claimed he was not allowed access to the team changing rooms, forced to tog out separately, was prevented from wearing the panel’s gear to training, and was unable to be involved in matches.
Also named on the provisional squad is Colm Galvin who spent part of the early summer playing his hurling in the US, before returning towards the end of Clare’s campaign.
The addition of O’Brien and Payne is also notable: O’Brien has represented Clare at senior level, and held a coaching role with Limerick during the county’s minor success of 2013; Payne, from Waterford, has a long record in strength and conditioning and, a four-time national boxing champion, has also worked as IAB International Performance Boxing Coach and Tutor for 10 years.