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18th Jun 2023

“The GAA needs to put teams like Carlow on steroids” – Óg Cusack encourages investment in hurling counties

Niall McIntyre

Donal Óg Cusack says it was to the detriment of Joe McDonagh Cup finalists Carlow and Offaly that they played in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship this weekend.

As things stand, and since the early days of the competition, the beaten finalists of the Joe McDonagh play the province’s third placed teams in an All-Ireland preliminary quarter final.

Aside from 2019, the Joe McDonagh teams have had no joy in these games. Laois beat Dublin that year and while Carlow looked like they may have been about to repeat the dose on Sunday, when leading by a point at half-time, tiredness eventually told as they were beaten by ten points.

Offaly had no such reason for heart or moral victories. Their neighbours Tipperary beat them by 32 points on a scoreline (7-38 to 3-18) that broke all sorts of records.

Donal Óg Cusack and Ursula Jacob were discussing this matter on The Sunday Game when Óg Cusack criticised the GAA over its failure to grow the game past the top counties.

“At the top level, the game has never been better,” said the Cork man.

“It’s not perfect, but in terms of the skill, the speed, the physicality – some of the games in the Munster championship, in terms of were outstanding.

“The Leinster final was a very good game. But I think today brought one of the biggest challenges that we’ve got, right back into focus.

“First of all, Carlow should have been left enjoy their Joe McDonagh win.

“Let them enjoy it, let them prepare for next year. There’s no point bringing them into championship like that, not to mention Offaly.

“And it’s a reminder of, while the game is going so well at one level, at another, it’s actually struggling. I think you used the word crisis there, and I would agree with that.

“Our biggest problem is we can’t spread the game outside of those big counties.”

As a means of emphasising his point, Óg Cusack mentioned that no county outside of Offaly have won a maiden All-Ireland hurling title since 1981.

“And I would say the GAA has failed hurling,” he said.

“We have to remember that the GAA took stewardship of the game. The GAA doesn’t own hurling.

“Right, and examples of that are, before World War Two, 11 different counties had won an All-Ireland. Since then, there’s only nine.

“Offaly were the last new team to win in, in 1981. Since then, we’ve had no new teams in the All-Ireland final. There’s nobody can tell me that’s anything other than failure.”

Óg Cusack singled out Carlow. They showed their talent in the Joe McDonagh and again here, with Chris Nolan and Marty Kavanagh standing out, and the Cork man feels they should receive targeted investment as a response.

“I think we need to go after serious investment with the teams that have shown promise, like Carlow.

“They’ve only six clubs. How are you we expecting that the likes of Carlow are going to make that step-up?

“And I would say the GAA needs to put teams like Carlow on steroids. Get more clubs, more competing, and then that will feed into the county game.

“But this won’t be done in five years. It will probably take ten years.

“But on that ten year thing, where’s the plan? I can’t find a ten year plan for the game. So if we don’t have a ten year strategy, how are we going to get there?”

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Cork GAA,The Sun