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Monday 5 December 2016

'Unfinished business' for O'Connell as Cuala revisit Leinster final crime scene

Cuala’s Darragh O’Connell.
Cuala’s Darragh O’Connell.

Whether by coincidence or not, two Cuala hurlers used exactly the same phrase as they reflected on the club's latest Leinster odyssey.

"There's unfinished business here," said Con O'Callaghan, fresh from personally routing Borris/Kilcotton to the tune of four goals and three points, all from play.

Maybe 20 minutes later, outside the same Parnell Park dressing-room, Darragh O'Connell was reiterating the very same message.

The duo had just helped Cuala to an emphatic 11-point victory over the Laois champions; but their thoughts were already focused on what comes next.

On Sunday week the two-in-a-row kings of Dublin face St Mullins of Carlow - on enemy terrain, Netwatch Cullen Park - with the prize of an AIB Leinster club SHC final place awaiting the winners.

For Cuala it's a case of returning to the scene of the crime ... they still harbour regrets about leaving their A-game behind them in Dalkey for last year's provincial final defeat to Oulart-The Ballagh at the Carlow venue.

"I'd be lying to say it wasn't," said O'Connell, asked if the memory still lingered.

"There is a certain degree in the back of your mind that there is a little bit of unfinished business.

"Last year we were very disappointed leaving Dr Cullen Park, so that's certainly in the back of your mind as you're looking forward. But you have to put that to the side too and just focus on what's coming next."

A former Kerry hurler, O'Connell is firmly established with his adopted Dublin. But right now it's a case of parking county and concentrating on the club.

Notwithstanding Sunday's facile victory, O'Connell believes Cuala have been well road-tested in the capital for the greater challenges ahead.

"We've had unbelievably tough battles in Dublin through the championship, going all the way back to Vincent's in our last group game where we had to win to get through," he recounted.

"We've been put to the pin of our collar and again the last day against Kilmacud. So, look, those games are certainly going to improve you."

Cuala's Galwegian supremo, Mattie Kenny, is preaching a different line about last year's Leinster reversal and whether it has been a big motivation this year.

"No," he stated in a manner that brooked no argument. "We just took it one game at a time ... it would be a bit foolish thinking any further ahead than that, because that's when you get a kick up the backside."

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