Donal Óg Cusack blames 'last remnants of British culture' for critics not accepting game of hurling has moved on
Donal Óg Cusack has launched a staunch defence of the sweeper system in hurling and has compared criticism of such tactics to "part of the last remnants of British culture on these islands".
Speaking after Tipperary's two-point enthralling win over Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park, Donal Óg jumped to the defence of Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald and co-host Derek McGrath for their use of the sweeper.
"A lot of the way that Davy has been challenged and this man (Derek McGrath) has been challenged, it's as if they have been disrespecting the game," said Cusack on the Sunday Game.
"I'd actually say not to innovate is actually disrespecting the game.
"And also, while I am at it, it reminds me of what's happened in the mid 2000s when it came to Gaelic football. You had a lot of very intelligent coaches that were playing the game in a certain way but it was very easy to make cheap shots about the the likes of puke football and so on.
"Why weren't people asking why did people want to do this? Why were coaches doing what they wanted to do?
"I think it is fantastic. Like, is there only one way we should be playing our game of hurling? I don't think so. I don't want people coming with one way of playing the game. I want to see teams coming with different ideas, different approaches, different tactics like we saw with Wexford today.
"The last point I will make while I am on it, I believe that type of accusation of disrespecting the traditions of the games, I actually think it's part of the last remnants of British culture on these islands.
"Because we know with the British, they founded a lot of them (games), but they struggled to accept and adapt the wider influences in their games.
"I would equate this long ball to John Bull type spirit, Jack Charlton type spirit. It's exactly the same type of spirit for me I'm delighted the modern player has moved on.
"Because I tell you Des, if you went into any modern inter county dressing room, they wouldn't be interested in that talk. They know the game has moved on. The same fellas challenging that type of stuff are the same fellas that, at one stage, would have been challenging picking the ball off the ground.
"(Mick) Mackey was one of the first players to solo the ball and you still had some people on his case.
"I bet you the same fellas that are on Davy's and Derek's case would have been on Mackey's case back in the day."
When asked if he was hurt or offended by the criticism he received while manager of Waterford, McGrath said: "You were, but there was often times you played the sweeper and I came home to watch the Sunday Game and we mightn't have played a sweeper and it would be pontificated from these seats that I occupy now, it looks like a public forum of self-indulgence here but the problem is it's the truth, this is how we feel.
"I can only go on my experience at Waterford. My experience is that the players craved information, they craved instruction. But they also craved flexibility, adaptability, they craved the whole idea of having fun. There is a merger between ambition, drive, innovation and fun and enjoyment.
"So I think what we have over the weekend as a whole is flexibility of approaching (the game).
"On a personal level, I sat at home and watched the 2016 (final) and the night of the Sunday Game. The moments of the year were picked out and one of the moments of the year that was picked out was our pummelling at the hands of Tipperary. It was like a 'system breakdown' , a 'system meltdown' were the words that were used and that we learned for the semi final against Kilkenny the same year. We 'took the shackles off and we let them at it and let them out and play'.
"Well I can tell you, we were more scripted and more rehearsed and more planned for the Kilkenny game in 2016 than we were for any game. Freedom can coexist within a structure."