Cuala quality sees them finish on top
Captain Fantastic inspires their AFL 9 title success
AMID all the flurry of the transfer window and the drama that Sky Sport bring to it, Cuala made the best signing of all.
Gary Widger had not played Gaelic football for 25 years. One day, he decided to lace up the boots again.
He took part in the club's Gaelic4Dads group. Next minute he was drafted onto Cuala's AFL Division 9 squad. He continued to impress in challenge games.
And before he knew it, he was wearing the captain's arm-band.
"His leadership qualities made him the ideal choice to be captain," explains mentor, Paddy Murdock.
Gary's influence echoed throughout the squad. Commitment was the name of the game.
That was proved when the Dalkey side faced a testing away trip to St Peregrine's.
Ronan Murdock was getting married the next day. He was ordered by his fiancée and, worse, his future mother-in-law not to play!
But play he did, and he made a vital contribution in a marvellous defensive display that took the points.
And that's the type of spirit that saw Cuala lift the league title by winning all their 15 matches.
"The lads trained twice a week on the pitch and once in the gym. We prepared well for the campaign," adds Paddy.
"We felt the team had a lot of potential because there were an exceptional minor crew emerging.
The minor winning mentors, Gerry Killion and Patsy Greene, came onto the management unit and the young lads integrated well with the more senior fellas."
The season began well with two tight home wins against Beann Eadair and St Oliver Plunkett's/ER.
Two more wins were picked up on the road against Erin's Isle and St Anne's, and then came the crucial triumphs at Peregrine's and Parnell's.
"The minor lads played out of their skins against Parnell's," reveals Paddy.
Even harder tests awaited. Sylvester's were beaten with the last kick of the match and Cuala trailed Ballyboden St Enda's late on. The last game of the season was a home derby versus Geraldine Morans.
"A win would complete the perfect season. We wore our new kit which was kindly sponsored by Sherry Fitzgerald. We were ahead by ten points at half-time, but Morans came back at us. Yet we got there by five points in the end."