Belfast Telegraph

Cusack strikes telling blow in questioning the benefits of Rebels' blueprint for future

By Declan Bogue

In drilling down the reasons for Cork's heavy defeat against Tipperary in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final, Sunday Game analyst Donal Óg Cusack cited the proposed redevelopment work at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

"Cork are investing €70 million on a stadium ... " Cusack began, before host Des Cahill interrupted him with "Centre of Excellence ... "

Cusack seized upon the phrase.

"A Centre of Excellence? It's not a Centre of Excellence, there's two fields there, how could that be a Centre of Excellence?

"If I was a club person, I would be looking for a review of that. That's going to turn out a Centre of Mediocrity ...

"What will that building do for the performance of young Cork players? I'd seriously question it. I actually think that it's a monument that's being built instead of a Centre of Excellence."

There are some who will immediately write off Cusack's remarks as that of a man who fought long and hard against the Cork county board during his playing career in the pursuit of perfection. In fact it is because of his willingness to highlight these matters that we should listen carefully to him.

Being right down on the marina, there is precious little space for a Centre of Excellence at the Cork site.

To strengthen his argument, Cusack rattled out a number of statistics about Cork teams and their complete lack of underage success in the last two decades.

He also questioned where the traditional strength of the city colleges has gone to in the Harty Cup. He was razor sharp in the delivery.

In Ulster, most counties have their Centres of Excellence.

Tyrone's Garvaghey complex has often been talked about on these pages, and despite some grumblings about the lofty location, is an impressive structure.

Derry's Owenbeg is probably the best, complete with a stand, five pitches with another on the way, and a fully-equipped gym.

Monaghan and Cavan also have extensive facilities, while Antrim and Donegal are in the process of planning and building their own.

Some counties are lagging. Fermanagh have a mere two pitches. The players hate it and when Peter Canavan was manager, he took his sessions in different club facilities.

Armagh proposed a Centre of Excellence in their 2007 Strategic Review, to be completed by 2012 but this project is as far away as ever, while Down seem to have no plans.

Cork are the biggest GAA county in the country. They contribute greatly to the Association and have pulled their weight on the culture and administration front.

But whoever was making the decisions on the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh really could have done with a Cusack in that committee to give a player's perspective.

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