May 01, 1992
Tyrone's Adrian Cush
TYRONE'S ATTACKER HAS COME OF AGE - The sky is now the limit for the talented Donaghmore lad.
Around twenty years ago a young Tyrone attacker caller Patsy Hetherington made a big name for himself in the G.A.A. world, regularly topping the National Football League scoring charts. Today another young man has burst upon the scene with an equally spectacular knack of finding the target. Adrian Cush bears many similarities in style and technique to Patsy Hetherington, but that's not surprising - he's a nephew of the stylish half forward who became a household name back in the seventies.
Adrian wasn't born when uncle Patsy first played for Tyrone, but today the two are team-mates on the Donaghmore side which plays in Division One of the Tyrone League. At 40, Patsy Hetherington may be a shade slower, but the passing years have taken away none of his class and skill, and his appetite for the game is undiminished. Cush, however, is set to achieve more in terms of ultimate success than his famous uncle, for today's Tyrone team is rated as the best the county has ever produced, and is widely expected to become a major force.
Much of the expectation has already been justified, with the Red Hand county now just 60 minutes away from its first National league title. And Adrian Cush, at 21, has really come of age during a campaign which saw Tyrone parade an exceptional array of talent up and down the country. The classy wing forward's awesome skill and pace have torn many defences to shreds. Time and again he has proved the matchwinner with his amazing accuracy and his remarkable ability to pick off scores at vital times and from seemingly impossible situations.
And Tyrone supporters expect to be thrilled again by his dashing runs, majestic style and unflinching bravery again this Sunday, for Cush is one of the key figure in a Tyrone attack which is certainly one of the most exciting in Ireland. Already, a veteran of two triumphant Railway Cup campaigns with Ulster, he has tasted success often and aims to sample its sweet flavours again.
Next on the list of targets is a National League medal, and Cush is determined to continue adding to his collection, which contains two Ulster Under 21 Championships, an Ulster Minor Championship and an All-Ireland Vocational Schools title. But the dilemma over whether to concentrate on the League or the Championship has been compounded by the fact that Tyrone and Derry are due to meet again in the Ulster Championship just two weeks after that National League final clash. "Ninety nine per cent of people in Tyrone would rather win the Championship match than the League final and that would also be my feeling I must confess," says Cush. "But we're going out to win the League. It's a bonus to get this far, and now we're just 60 minutes away from our first ever National League title. Make no mistake about it, we are going all out to win despite the closeness of the Championship match and the danger of injuries."
And Cush discounts the theory that closely guarded secrets are going to be given away when the sides meet so soon before the Championship encounter. "They probably know as much about us as they will ever know. They got a good look as us in Croke Park when we beat Dublin, and our team is not going to change dramatically in such a short time" he says, "I'm sure neither manager is too happy about having to meet so soon before the Ulster Championship game, but I don't think it really matters. Any advantages to be gained can be gained equally by both sides. The only problem is the possibility of players being injured or suspended."
And he is certain the winners of the Tyrone-Derry game will have a big bearing on the eventual outcome of the Ulster Championship. "At the moment they are the two inform teams. Derry have not been beaten in the National League, and we have been beaten only once. I think it will be a great game, and whoever wins that one must have a great chance of winning the Ulster title."
The disappointment of losing to Derry at the same stage of last year's Ulster Championship has not yet faded, and that defeat makes Tyrone all the more determined to get past the first hurdle this time out. "It was a terrible disappointment. We had just won the All-Ireland Under 21 final the previous week, and we just didn't know what it felt like to lose. It was a great shock. We had promised ourselves it wouldn't happen, because the previous year we had also lost by a point to Armagh. There was no way it was going to happen again, and we couldn't believe it when it did. Hopefully this year our luck will change."
A National League final victory would certainly be the perfect platform from which to approach the Championship, and Cush feels the soaring confidence within the side will carry them through. "It's our massive confidence which has brought us this far. The couple of good results we had before Christmas made all the difference. After we beat Dublin it gave us a lot of self-belief. But the Dublin press gave us very little credit for that victory, so we went out to prove it was no fluke when we met Cork, they gave us a very hard game in Omagh but we beat them in the end, and showed a lot of character and confidence in our own ability. We were two points behind with ten minutes to go, but we didn't panic, that was a major boost which our critics found hard to swallow."
It was Cush who scored a marvellous winning point in that game, curling a kick between the posts from fifty yards out on the sideline. He had come a long way since that September day in 1986 when, as a 16-year-old schoolboy, he sat in the Hogan Stand as his heroes took on Kerry in the All-Ireland final. "I was already mad about football then, but Tyrone's appearance in the All-Ireland final made me even keener. As I watched that game, I never thought I would be turning out for Tyrone in a Senior final in Croke Park in just a few years time. It's every youngster's dream, and luckily for me it's one I have been able to realise. At that time I never thought I would ever play for Tyrone, let alone get to a National League final. Back in 1986 my hero was Plunkett Donaghy, and it's a great honour to be playing with him now. He's the best player I have ever seen, and he's a great inspiration to younger players like myself. He never stops. In the League semi-final when he came on he turned the game around, even though he was injured.
Cush, and all the other young players in the side, also look to Damien O'Hagan for leadership in attack. "He keeps us right, he's always talking to us and organising the forwards. He's a great tactical leader. And in defence Enda Kilpatrick is the father figure, encouraging the other defenders and making sure things don't get ragged. Although we have a very young team, we still have an experienced backbone which keeps it together."
Now Cush, like his uncle Patsy all those years ago, is the side's recognised free-kicker, along with right-footed Peter Canavan. But it's only in the last six weeks that he has actually taken time out to practice, but over the past six weeks I have been going out every day to hit dead balls in the pitch at Donaghmore. And I go half an hour early to training to get some practice in before the sessions start. I find it has improved confidence, and I am finding the target more regularly. It has certainly helped my kicking, and when the frees keep going over the bar, it helps my overall game."
Taken from Hogan Stand Magazine - 01-05-92
Written by Francis Mooney
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