Cusack warns Rebels to keep lid on expectations
INJURED Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack has warned against comparisons between Jimmy Barry-Murphy's first reign and his second coming as Cork manager, insisting 'All Blacks-like Kilkenny' have changed the hurling landscape dramatically.
Cusack was one of a handful of young players on the 1999 Cork side that swept all before them under Barry-Murphy, but believes a repeat is much less likely for the Rebels such is the dominance of the Cats.
"In 1999, a lot of unique factors came together," said the Cloyne stopper, who is working his way back from a serious Achillies injury.
"We had a young team that had won minor and U-21 championships. We had a strong belief in ourselves too. Jimmy is back in and he has brought a great freshness, but he doesn't have the luxury of the young lads coming in who have won minors and U-21s.
"We're conscious of that and I'm conscious of it as an older player. I came up and we played Kilkenny in a couple of All-Ireland finals and I think we won two and lost two and we would have had a strong belief in ourselves.
"The younger guys have come up at a time when Kilkenny have been dominating. It's a factor not only for us in Cork, but for all the other teams who are trying to chase them.
"You could make the analogy, in a way, they are almost turning into the All Blacks of hurling."
Cusack has been told he won't be back to full fitness until January and his absence has opened a rare void in the Cork team.
Martin Coleman started the league final, but endured a difficult afternoon and was omitted from the squad that lost narrowly to Tipp. Anthony Nash started this game, with Darren McCarthy on the bench and the status quo has been retained for tomorrow's clash.
"What happened to him (Coleman), I get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about it. He's a goalkeeper. He knows that's the joy of the position. Goals magnify mistakes, which doesn't happen so much out the field. It's tough, we are playing in the top league, but he knows no one is going to pull him through this situation but himself."
And while Cusack is on board with the coaching team, he insists he won't be too "hands on" with the Cork goalkeepers.
"I remember a couple of years ago, a former goalkeeper was standing behind the goals for one of the other counties -- even for big championship games in Croke Park.
"I was young at that stage, but I said there was no way I'd have that because it's bulls**t. So, as far as my own (coaching) situation goes, well, these guys have been playing hurling since they can walk."