CORK minor hurling manager Donal Óg Cusack has defended the elite game, hitting out at those he believes are determined to criticise inter-county players.
The often controversial Rebel legend, and current president of the Gaelic Players Association, argued on the RTÉ GAA podcast that pitching the return to action as a club versus county standout is completely unfair.
Currently, inter-county squads aren't allowed to train collectively until September 14 as the provincial series aren't starting until October, and players are expected to commit fully to their clubs.
“There’s this perception being put out there that the club player is almost holier than the inter-county player," Cusack said.
"I would argue the county game is every bit as integral and as historical a component of the GAA as the club game.
“It’s vital in terms of showcasing our games, the provision of an elite arena for our players… like, what do we want? To say we don’t have an elite arena involved in our Association so you should go and play other sports?
"I think absolutely we should be catering for the elite aspect of our sports and be proud of it.
"I would argue the county is as essential as the clubs themselves in terms of the unifying effect on communities and even the sense of pride in place that it offers, then not to mention the income for building grounds, the grants, the coaching officers."
Cusack has long stated that players should be allowed have an equal grá for club and county, going back to his own days as a twice All-Star with Cork while also winning an intermediate title with his club Cloyne and helping them to three senior deciders in a row.
Indeed he is still between the posts for his club at the of 43 and managed their minors to a Premier 2 success, in an amalgamation with Russell Rovers, St Colman's.
"The laochs, the heroes, we know how important that is to the game, the lads who present medals at the end of the year.
“A lot of the people who are making the most noise at the moment are actually people who make money or try to make money off the backs of these very same players.
"I do think we need to be very careful because if some of these people have their way the GAA will be as anonymous as the League of Ireland B.
"We have to be very careful in terms of that whole territory, right.”
Cusack made the case that it's up to the county boards to ensure their teams don’t breach the club window, with a major question over the insurance situation right now.