herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

cuala possess a cultured cat

Even PA announcers have trouble with Schutte!

IS there a better player in the game at plucking the ball high in the clouds.

Upstairs in Parnell Park, Mark Schutte takes a seat and pulls a name from the top drawer.

Damian Byrne.

When Mark looks out at the modern-day Cuala, he thinks of Damian.

And also when he looks around the Dublin dressing-room and sees so many of his club colleagues.

Mark was reared on Cuala Championship success. His Dad, Karl, captained the side. His mother, Margaret, is the sister of the Holden heroes.

But without the input of the club's legendary goalkeeper, Cuala wouldn't be the club you see today.

"Coming off the back of the three senior hurling championship wins, there wasn't a lot of young players coming through," explains Mark.

"Damian and a few other lads sat down and set up a development structure. They realised they had to build from the bottom.

"They got teams going at under-8 and under-10 level, and all the way up.

Those players came through to senior level.

"And all the lads that are on the Dublin senior, U21 and minor squads are also products of that system."

Damian was Dublin's number one. And hurling was always the number one sport in the Schutte house.

"I enjoy playing football, but I grew up with the club winning those senior hurling titles, so hurling was always the first love."

His surname has caused many a stadium announcer problems.

"My Dad's father was from Germany. He moved to Ireland when he was four or five years-old.

"But I think I get my hurling more from the Kilkenny side of the family than the German side," he smiles. Mark is related to Kilkenny's Joey Holden and Brian Hogan.

Mark's other grandfather, Tom Holden, hailed from Kilkenny's Mullinavat. He was the Godfather of Cuala. Loved by all. Young and old.

That deep smile and kind words inspired the generations.

And he'd lift the roof off the Dalkey clubhouse with his rousing rendition of the 4 and 9.

Mark admires the black and amber cat walk.

"They bring such intensity to the pitch and yet they are so modest off it. The success that they have had is what drives myself and Paul (brother) on."

Cuala's last Dublin title came in 1994. Three years ago, Harry Roberts brought them back to their first final since 1994.

Cuala have three title wins, 1989, 1991 and '94.

They are sure to be in the mix again. Striving to get out of the group will be the first priority.

They'll throw-in against Ballinter St John's on Saturday.

"They won the U21 Championship, so they have a lot of young players coming through.

"Lucan have been there or there-abouts for the last few years, while Faughs have such a deep history behind them.

"They will be three hard games, so getting out of the group will be a tough thing to do."

Marking Mark will not be an easy day's work. Michael Duignan said on the radio last Friday morning that he's now one of the best forwards in the country.

Danny Sutcliffe said the same. Danny, Mark and Seán McGrath of Dublin and Kilmacud were in the same class at Colaiste Eoin.

"Mark is such a versatile player. He has phenomenal talent," states Danny.

"He has such pace and power. He is definitely among the top forwards in the country.

"He brings a lot to the inside line. He takes the pressure off Liam (Rushe). Teams set up to counter Liam's influence under the high ball, and Mark brings another dimension to it."

Staying clear of injuries has been a crucial factor.

"Playing games every week has definitely helped. Getting the match sharpness has been very good for me," notes Mark.

BUILDING

He's enjoying life with the Blues. "Everything is building towards the championship. Every game you get is giving you more preparation. It's a chance to build momentum.

"We are still learning. It's important to just focus on ourselves. Everytime we go out training, we are still trying to get the best out of ourselves and improve."

And every match day brings a different script. Defensive systems have entered the ancient craft.

"Some teams are doing that, and it can be done to good effect.

"Dublin did it in the early years under Anthony Daly.

"Johnny McCaffrey dropped back as a sweeper and it brought the team a lot of success. Teams can be successful using that ploy."

And the new man on the bridge has brought his own qualities. "Anthony (Daly) and Ger (Cunningham) were were successful in their own right. Both won All-Irelands.

"Anthony was a very good motivator, and that was a big part of the success. Now Ger has come in and maybe he brings a bit more focus to the preparation before games."

Two different styles. But both steering the ship in the right direction.

Both showing noble vision. Just like Dayo and his fellow sailors all those years ago.

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