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Tony Kelly: 'Players will be buzzing going back in trying to impress Donal Óg'

Clare’s former Hurler of the Year is excited by the arrival of Donal Óg Cusack as coach.

Tony Kelly can't wait to get started with Donal Óg Cusack in Clare.
Tony Kelly can't wait to get started with Donal Óg Cusack in Clare.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FORMER HURLER OF the Year Tony Kelly is “excited” by the prospect of Donal Óg Cusack’s arrival as Clare’s new senior hurling team coach.

2013 All-Ireland winning hero Kelly believes that Cusack will bring “freshness” to the Banner County set-up as he admitted that Clare have not done themselves justice over the past two seasons.

Clare crashed out in the qualifiers in 2014 and 2015 but Cusack’s appointment has marked them out as a team to watch next year.

Kelly, 21, told Clare FM: “When I heard the news, excitement is the word that comes to mind.

“We’re used to watching him on The Sunday Game and analysing ourselves and different teams.

“Everything he’s done in the last year or two with The Sunday Game is spot on, he seems to know his stuff.

“We hope he’ll be able to add something new to us and something other teams won’t be able to catch onto.

“I think he will be able to do that, he was fairly sharp on The Sunday Game and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can bring to us.”

Kelly will share captaincy responsibilities with Cian Dillon next year and he hailed boss Davy Fitzgerald’s decision to recruit Cusack.

Cian Dillon Clare joint-captain Cian Dillon. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kelly said: “Davy went out and he’s gotten something new and it will bring a bit of freshness to the whole set-up.

“Players will be buzzing going back in trying to impress Donal Óg, he’s new into the set-up and they want to show what they’re made of, put their name forward and come up in his estimation.

“It will put a bit of a spring in the step of everybody heading back into training that there’s a new voice and a new fella with new ideas.”

Kelly is also delighted with the return of fellow 2013 All-Ireland senior medallist Podge Collins to the Clare set-up.

Padraic Collins Podge Collins will be hurling for Clare again next year. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kelly’s former U21 teammate opted for football only in 2015 but will return to hurling when he recovers from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Kelly said: “Podge coming in would be a big plus to any team in the country, the way he performed for us in 2013 especially, we’re only dying to get him back into the panel and onto the field.

He was a vital part of our set-up when we were winning and hopefully he’ll be a vital part of it this year as well.”

Following a disappointing couple of seasons, Kelly wants Clare to re-establish themselves as one of the leading contenders for honours next year.

He admitted: “I don’t think we did ourselves justice as players, getting knocked out in the qualifiers the last two years is a sickening feeling.

“After 2013, expectations were that we’d be winning Munsters and getting to All-Ireland semi-finals but we’ve let ourselves down in that we haven’t performed to that level.

“The overall feeling is that we haven’t done ourselves justice on the field.”

Tony Kelly argues with Barry Kelly after the game Tony Kelly argues with ref Barry Kelly following this year's qualifier defeat to Cork. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Clare’s other joint-captain, defender Dillon, echoed Kelly’s sentiments regarding Cusack’s appointment.

He said: “Donal Óg, as a player, achieved huge success and as a pundit on The Sunday Game, he’s amassed huge respect amongst the whole hurling public and GAA community in general.

Him actually being chosen to be part of our backroom team and him showing the commitment to actually drop all of his personal duties as well gives us huge encouragement going back into training, that here’s a guy who’s given up an awful lot to come up here and help us for a year or two.

“We’re really looking forward to getting back into training to hear his new ideas and training really hard to experience some new success.”

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