DONAL Óg Cusack has already had success on the minor club front, guiding St Colman’s to the Premier 2 title, and now he’s hoping that a similar story can be written on the inter-county scene.
He takes charge of the Cork minor team who will travel to Thurles on Saturday to face the Banner County in the opening game of the provincial championship.
It’s a knockout game, no second chances and it all means getting off the starting blocks quickly.
Cusack has assembled a very formidable backroom team that includes Tom Kenny, Fraggie Murphy, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Killian Cronin, Ian Lynam, Ger Geary from Youghal and Tom O’Brien from Carrigtwohill.
A lot of diligent effort has been put in on the ground which the former Cork star hopes will yield a rich dividend over the coming weeks.
“We are looking forward to the campaign and, hopefully, it will be an extended one.
“Obviously, our preparations were disrupted earlier in the year and we are playing much later than anybody anticipated.
“But we are happy to be back training and getting the opportunity now of going to Thurles on Saturday, that is a positive for us and the players, hurling is a positive, to be hurling in October.
“There was a meeting last week and there was a fear that the minor and U21 competitions could be impacted upon, but the green light was given by Croke Park and the focus for us now is the game with Clare and, hopefully, beyond."
A very strong squad of players has been assembled for the game after a lengthy search to find the best young players to represent the county.
“We went back training last month and we would have looked at 130 players since we took over the job.
“We reduced that to 40 over the course of time and last week we brought that down to 30. We have appointed Eoin Downey from the Glen as captain and Alex Quirke from Midleton is the vice-captain.’’
Cusack was a keen observer at club games throughout the county when his own St Colman’s were not involved and he was very impressed with what he saw.
“We looked at as many games as we could and the standard in Premier 1 and 2 was very high, I thought.
“I was delighted with St Colman’s winning obviously and the Premier 1 final between the Barrs and Sars was of a very high standard as were some of the other games.
“We have a lot of good lads that we hope will bring that club form with them, Ben Cunningham, William Buckley and Ben O’Connor from the Barrs, Eoin Downey and the Ballincollig lads, Brian Keating, James Dwyer, Tadhg O’Connell among a lot of others.
“As a management team we want to do the best for Cork and we’d want the same from the players.’’
He’s aware too that as it's a knockout game there is that extra bit of pressure.
“Look, there is always pressure playing with Cork because we all care so much.
“We’ll need to start well, that’s always important for players of this age group, build up the confidence and take it on.’’
And he’s expecting a strong challenge from Clare.
“This Clare team is well thought of up there. Some of them enjoyed success with St Flannan’s in the Harty Cup last season and they’ll get a bounce from that.
“We’ll get on with it, appreciate where we are, going up to Thurles and all of us doing the best we can for Cork.”
SATURDAY: Munster Minor Hurling quarter-final: Clare v Cork, Thurles, 1pm.