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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Cuala driven on by failure - O'Callaghan points to Oulart defeat

Cuala Cian O’Callaghan of is pictured ahead of today’s AIB All-Ireland Club SHC Final against Ballyea of Clare in Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cuala Cian O’Callaghan of is pictured ahead of today’s AIB All-Ireland Club SHC Final against Ballyea of Clare in Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

If Cuala have carried themselves this past year with the air of a team in a hurry, that's because they are.

"We felt like there was a lot of unfinished business there last year," says Cian O'Callaghan of their Leinter club triumph at the second time of asking last December.

As a follow-up act to their first county title since 1994 and that provincial final appearance, this has been pretty compelling.

Today, Ballyea stand before O'Callaghan's team and an All-Ireland title.

Prior to this, they have swept all before them.

The three points Kilmacud Crokes got to within Cuala in their Dublin SHC final was the closest any team came in county or provincial combat.

Amends

And all the time, Mattie Kenny's team have given the impression of a team trying to make amends.

"Last year," he notes, referencing the 2015 Leinster campaign, the one that ended so disappointingly against Oulart-The Ballagh, "was slightly different.

"There wasn't as much time management, so in Dublin I think we won four matches in three weeks to win the Dublin championship last year.

"Then we were playing every week in Leinster and it was nearly like there was a complete bubble and I suppose nobody really sat down to kind of think 'well, we have two weeks to prepare now for Oulart, what are we going to do?'."

That day in Dr Cullen Park, Cuala played poorly against the gusty November wind and arguably worse with it.

Oulart's needs were probably greater but that didn't shorten the winter for Cuala either.

"We were kind of nearly caught up in ourselves so much we nearly had all this momentum that we thought that we didn't even have to work for the final possibly," O'Callaghan recalls.

"But since last year, we've definitely come on as a team and I think that's evident when you look at the team.

"We met at the start of the year and we said we just wanted to win the Dublin Championship. To give us a chance to go back and right a few of those wrongs from the Leinster final."

Natural peak

So far, they have done everything right, looking for all the world like a balanced, powerful team coming towards a natural peak.

If it happens in Croke Park today, Dublin should have their first All-Ireland club hurling champions.

"I suppose you're aware of it but you just have to park it," O'Callaghan notes of the historical context of Cuala's task today.

"Looking backwards is nearly something for the supporters to do, the men who were there in 1989, 1991 and 1994, a Cuala team would have won three championships. They can look back at that and see the significance of that.

"But I think when you're in that bubble, when you're a player on the team or in that panel you just have to have complete focus on the task ahead."

The only thing on their agenda though, is making sure they can look in the mirror tomorrow knowing they put in a performance on their biggest day.

"You go out on Paddy's Day and it's pure championship hurling," O'Callaghan concludes, "two teams going toe-to-toe at serious intensity, serious skill.

"That's all it is."

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