AFTER 21 BARREN years Cuala finally got to rejoice last winter after they made a Dublin senior hurling breakthrough.
They bounced on from that county title to reach the Leinster equivalent where they lost out to Wexford’s Oulart-the-Ballagh.
But after all that painstaking progress, the south Dublin club then almost lost the man who had guided them to that point, Galway native Mattie Kenny.
A coach on the Galway side that contested the 2012 All-Ireland final, the Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry native was in contention for the top job with the Tribesmen last winter.
Ultimately Micheal Donoghue was installed out west, Kenny stayed on with Cuala and they’re back in another Dublin senior hurling final tomorrow.
“There was talk and rumor that he was going to get the Galway job,” admits Cuala and Dublin forward Mark Schutte.
Cuala’s Mark Schutte
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
“From our point of view, we’re delighted he didn’t get it. We’re delighted that he came back.
“Mattie is a very motivated guy. And for him to come back, that breaths out onto the players.
“His motivation for the game, his drive. That kind of feeds on to the players and we’re working off that as well.
“Thank God I’m not in that part of the business but in talking to the chairman of the hurling board in Cuala, it is tough to find managers and get top quality coaches.
“Thank God we’ve got Mattie and look at Crokes, they have Ollie Baker. They don’t come around too easy. We’re lucky to have them at the minute.
“When you have these coaches, you want to do as best as you can while you can. That is another thing because you never know what’s around the corner.”
Cuala boss Mattie Kenny
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Winning a Dublin final at last was a release for Cuala. There is a tinge of regret at not adding a Leinster title but an acceptance that a more seasoned team overcame them.
“There was always doubts there until you actually win one,” admits Schutte.
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“To win the first one was always the monkey on our back. It was completely new to all of us.
“None of us had been involved in a Leinster club championship before. I’d say we were just beaten by a better Oulart team, no doubt about it.
Dejected Cuala players after their Leinster final loss to Oulart
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
“We’re just looking ahead to this weekend and concentrating on winning a back to back Dublin senior championship, it’d be a huge achievement for us.”
And they’re after getting one high-profile 2016 winner back in their ranks in recent weeks.
In the wake of Dublin’s All-Ireland football success, Con O’Callaghan picked up a hurley again and came on as a substitute in their semi-final win over Cuala.
“In fairness Con had a great year with the Dublin footballers,” says Schutte.
“He’s still playing with the club hurlers and footballers. It shows what the club means to him.
“The Thursday after the All-Ireland final he was back training, back pucking around.
Cuala hurler Con O’Callaghan during their semi-final against Lucan Sarsfields
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
“Con probably last year had the choice to play hurling or football. He chose football and won himself an All-Ireland medal so you can’t argue with that.
“To be honest, I was surprised at how sharp his touch was because he hadn’t picked up a hurl in the last nine months. But he’s come back, he’s done well in training and he’s a great asset to have really.”
Con O’Callaghan lifts the Sam Maguire after Dublin’s title win
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
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