HE HAS taken on some extraordinary battles in his life, and Donal Og Cusack faces one of the toughest of his career after a season-ending injury on Sunday.
Around two o'clock yesterday the veteran Cork netminder confirmed the worst through his Twitter account.
"Complete rupture Achilles. Op 18r today. Thks 2 medics, officials & gardai at Semple. Also Tom Barry & Sean Allen. Thks 2all 4kind msges also," he tweeted.
By coincidence it was a Corkman -- orthopedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist Johnny McKenna -- who operated on him at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry yesterday evening.
It says a lot about Cusack's personality and mindset that gratitude, not self-pity, was his immediate public response.
In the bowels of Semple Stadium last Sunday there was similar evidence of this unique man. He had been stretchered off within 20 minutes of throw-in and Jimmy Barry-Murphy, naturally, sought to check on him at half-time.
But the Cork boss was waved away by his stricken captain and firmly told "go away and look after the players, don't mind about me. Cork hurling is all that matters, and drive on with the team."
Anyone who has ever suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon likens it to the feeling of getting shot, or hit by a brick, at the back of the ankle.
The pain is immediately excruciating and people usually turn around to see what hit them.
Yet somehow Cusack had the presence of mind to still clear the ball away before writhing around in agony.
This is hardly surprising from a man who has shown remarkable strength of character throughout his career.
He was in the thick of several player revolts, fighting for better treatment and training systems so that Cork's hurlers and footballers could maximise their potential and be numbered among the best in the country. Not content with leading the fight locally, he took on that battle nationally.
As the chairman of the Gaelic Players' Association, Cusack has been in the vanguard of those willing to risk unpopularity in their largely amateur sport, by fighting for players' rights and recognition and an equitable shareout of commercial benefits for those who put their body on the line.
It is fair to say that the GPA would not now be officially recognised by the GAA and inside its tent without him.
On a personal level, he is also the first and only GAA player to 'come out' nationally and declare himself homosexual.
Yet even Cusack's immensely powerful, focused and brave personality will be seriously tested by what now faces him as an athlete.
Apart from a torn cruciate, there are few more debilitating sports injuries than a ruptured Achilles. Recovery times can stretch from six months to well over a year; rehabilitation can be slow and painstaking.
The good news is that professional athletes can now recover in six to eight months, and it is no longer viewed as career-threatening.
At 35, though, the Cloyne legend is at the wrong end of the age spectrum to be facing such a testing rehab.
But anyone who knows him doesn't doubt his ability to successfully return to top-class hurling, and there are several things in his favour.
For a start this is his first major physical setback. In 17 seasons in a Cork jersey, from minor through U-21 and senior, he has never missed a championship match because of injury and has always kept himself supremely fit.
As a goalkeeper, his inter-county career is also not as dictated by age as an outfield player, and his position should also involve less wear and tear when he does make a comeback.
Insiders already believe Cusack will still play a major role for Cork this summer as an inspirational off-field leader, likening his potential to a "non-playing Ryder Cup captain."
Barry-Murphy has put together a young team of contenders in surprisingly quick time, and it was no coincidence that he made Cusack team captain.
Cusack and Sean Og O hAilpin (35) are seen as the team's spiritual leaders, giving huge help and direction to the squad's rising talent, and that is a role the 'keeper will not want to surrender, despite being out of action this summer.
He should also find succour and encouragement from the public reaction. Tipperary, Kilkenny and Clare fans all joined the applause as he was carried off the pitch last Sunday.
His Twitter account attracted messages of goodwill from eclectic sources yesterday, including English rugby player Ben Cohen who, like Cusack, is an advocate for an anti-bullying campaign.
Cusack's Twitter profile may simply read 'I am a Hurler' but there is no doubt that the larger sporting society in Ireland regard him as much more than that and will be wishing him a speedy recovery.