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'I wouldn't touch Donal Og's book with a forty foot pole'

KILKENNY legend Eddie Keher has stoked the fires of rivalry ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland SHC semi-final by claiming that he would not touch Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack's autobiography "with a forty foot pole."

Keher insisted that Cusack's criticisms of Kilkenny in his book are wholly unjustified and said that if he had received a present of the best-seller last Christmas, it would have ended up "straight in the bin."

Keher added that he has been left saddened by the animosity that has developed between the two counties in recent years and believes that some of the hard-hitting comments contained in Cusack's book are "out of order."

Keher (68) won six All-Ireland medals, 10 Leinster titles, five All Star awards and three National League crowns during the course of a glittering intercounty career with Kilkenny.

The former corner-forward remains very close to the Kilkenny set-up and the Rower-Inistioge clubman rarely misses a match involving the Cats, or indeed, a training session.

In Cusack's book, Keher was name-checked once when the goalkeeper referred to him in the context of a disciplinary meeting in Portlaoise, which followed the 'Semplegate' row involving Cork and Clare in 2007.

"I wouldn't touch it (Cusack's book) with a forty foot pole," said Keher. "Straight into the bin. All I have heard about it, and maybe I'm wrong to make judgement, is third-party things said about me and Kilkenny generally, totally out of order for a current player to make.

"He had a go at everybody as far as I know, including Tipperary players as well. He made very derogatory remarks about Kilkenny, statements that you wouldn't even consider challenging.

"I absolutely love Cork people. I love their attitude to a lot of things and to sport and hurling. The stuff he has come out with is totally contrary to what normally comes from Cork regarding sport and people. It's certainly different to my experiences of Cork people and players that we had great battles with. I have huge admiration, respect and friendship with all of those lads, but this fella is something different."

Cusack famously referred to Kilkenny's players as the 'Stepford Wives' of hurling, but Keher rejects the criticism.

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"The current Kilkenny team are an exceptional bunch of players," he said.

"They just want to play hurling and love it. Issues like that (the GPA) never came to the fore. They were very well looked after, I don't know whether they're any better or worse than Cork, but they're very happy with how they're looked after. And if there's anything else they need, we'll get it for them.

"They're facilitated to play hurling; anything else is a bonus and there's no need for the players to become involved in those issues that he (Cusack) was raising."

Keher has noticed an animosity which has crept in between the two counties in recent years, admitting: "I think it's fair to say that they don't like each other. It's sad in a way. The present situation may blow over. It is so unusual for current players and one or two others to make statements like that and it has to fuel some little bit of animosity.

"It's a pity that the statements have come from one or two players in that (Cork) team. They are very fine hurlers that we all respect hugely. It's a pity that the whole squad would be tainted with statements that were made."

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