Donal Óg as hungry as ever22/02/2012 - 18:59:48
Cork captain Donal Óg Cusack says he is as hungry as ever for success with the Rebels as he sets out on his 17th senior inter-county campaign this weekend.
Cusack, who turns 35 on March 16, says that his eagerness to pull on the Cork jersey is as great as when he first did so back in 1996 in an Oireachtas tie against Tipperary.
"I love the game, it's one of the reasons why I get out of the bed in the morning," he said.
"My love for the game has grown over the years and you also understand that you are not at the start of your career and you are probably not at the middle of your career either.
"It's something you appreciate very much, all of the small things, and appreciate being able to train and hopefully stay injury free."
The Rebels' long-serving goalkeeper says he is in a privileged position to have commanded the posts for Cork for so long.
"I am privileged. Making my debut in 1996 in the Oireachtas competition, Cork senior hurling has been part and parcel of my life ever since. Probably the biggest part of my life ever since. I'm privileged and that's the way I treat it.
"There are other 'keepers on the panel who are absolutely top class guys - I couldn't say enough about them in terms of their commitment and capabilities and that is constantly putting pressure on me, but that's something I welcome.
"I have a responsibility to those guys as much as everybody else to be doing the best that I can."
Cusack was speaking at the announcement of the Gaelic Players Association's partnership with mental health organisation Headstrong, which will see 25 inter-county players act as mental health ambassadors.
He says the importance of giving support in this area cannot go unnoticed, explaining: "I think every team and every club and everybody has come across mental health issues and it is one of the areas where the GPA can contribute towards, through the structures that exist and players being role models inside in the communities.
"Having to start the conversation going is one of the key things and if young people can see older players who are role models coming into their clubs and into their schools and talking about the issue then you would imagine that will only encourage them to do the same. Hopefully it will get them talking about it."
One man whom Cusack has also had a great responsibility to and a great respect for over the years is Cork's newly-appointed senior hurling boss Jimmy Barry Murphy.
JBM was Cusack's underage manager and also of course was at the helm in the late 1990s when All-Ireland senior success came winging its way to Leeside.
Donal Óg is looking forward to the second coming under the St. Finbarr's clubman. "Players want to work for him," said Cusack of Barry-Murphy.
"I remember walking into a Cork dressing-room in 1994. He was in charge of the minor team and I remember walking in and thinking, ‘that's Jimmy Barry-Murphy there’, and sitting down listening to him.
"When he walks into a Cork dressing room you get the exact same feeling still. He's an iconic character in Cork. He was a hero to a lot of us young kids.
"When he's around the place he’s still the exact same. And dealing with him in a manager-captain relationship, he's still 'Jimmy Barry-Murphy' to me, he's still a hero to me and I think he brings that out in players, that people just want to do it for him as well as doing it for themselves."
On the pitch, Cusack is looking forward to renewing rivalries with Waterford this Saturday under the Pairc Uí Rinn floodlights in their Allianz Hurling League opener.
"Waterford will be no different to Cork in that they have had a tough winter's training, but playing the game is what it is about and they will be no different (to us)," admitted the Cloyne clubman.
"Cork and Waterford have had great games over the last number of years and they are both counties who are passionate about their hurling and it is a great way to kick it off on Saturday night down in Pairc Ui Rinn.
"Nobody wants to see players not involved but I'm sure John Mullane will have plenty to say later in the summer yet, but having said that there will be plenty of top players in action this weekend and every player who will be going out there will want to win.
"I know the league is a secondary competition, but I think this year with much fewer teams every game seems like a big game and a competitive game - every team will want to win."
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