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Sunday 17 December 2017

Cuala packing plenty into small window

County final loss in 2012 was a turning point in the Dalkey club's fortunes, says Schutte

Kilcormac-Killoughey’s Dan Currams and Cuala’s Paul Schutte at yesterday’s AIB Leinster Club SHC final launch. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
Kilcormac-Killoughey’s Dan Currams and Cuala’s Paul Schutte at yesterday’s AIB Leinster Club SHC final launch. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat

For those at the centre of any great sporting movement, there is almost always a single moment that can be identified as the one where it all began.

"I remember after the (Kilmacud) Crokes game in 2012, when we lost the first county final," says Paul Schutte of Cuala's recent revolution.

"I remember sitting in the dressing-room straight after the game and we were all pretty upset.

"But we said that the goal for this team was to go and win a Leinster title. And to be fair to Oisín Gough, he's a great visionary. And he was saying to us: 'why sell ourselves short? Go for the All-Ireland'.

"So from 2012, we just viewed it as a journey. And we've tried to improve one per cent every day. If it's been good enough, great. If it hasn't, fair enough.

"But the 2012 county final loss when we said 'OK, it's time to pull up our socks and try and achieve something in the small window we have'."

The omens were good.

By Schutte's estimation, he and Gough were two of the older members of the team at the grizzled age of 21.

Soon, his brother Mark would sprout through, Darragh O'Connell would add his glide to their ranks and a young man named Con O'Callaghan, the final, essential component in all Cuala's recent glory, was only just beginning to make noises in Cuala's and Dublin's underage ranks.

"Cian (O'Callaghan) and Colm (Cronin) played their very first senior games when still minors," Schutte recalls.

"They barely trained with us. Myself and Oisín and David (Treacy) would have probably been the oldest on the team at 20 or 21.

Seismic

"So we've got a nice bit of experience going now because we all started so young, matched with all the youth."

Another seismic moment in Cuala's renaissance was the arrival of Mattie Kenny as their manager in 2014.

He has been as synonymous with their success as the raft of home-grown county-grade talent that is currently jammed into their starting 15.

Indeed plenty of that talent - Paul Schutte included - have been effusive in their praise for Kenny in their run to three Dublin SHC titles in-a-row and this year's All-Ireland club title.

"Mattie was a massive addition to us," confirms Schutte, who will captain Cuala in their third Leinster club final in succession this Sunday in Portlaoise against Offaly's Kilcormac-Killoughey.

"He did a lot for the club, he brought the standards up, brought a bit of steel but he also brought - it's a massive club that is forever growing and its hard to keep that small club feel going - so he brought his experience from his small club in Galway into Cuala.

"He had us down in Dalkey selling joker (tickets), regardless of if you were training for Dublin the night before or on the intermediate team and he blended that in as one but it stood to us massively."

It helps too that Con O'Callaghan has been so quick to discard his own multitude successes this year to lend his considerable talents back to the club.

"I was a little bit surprised," Schutte admitted, of O'Callaghan's resumption of club hurling duties so soon after Dublin's All-Ireland SFC win.

"And it was a good surprise to get. Because to be fair, he's been on the road now for two and half years, flat out. He hasn't got a break.

"So we appreciate it in Cuala, what he's doing. He's a great club man.

"He's had a serious year. But he's still very humble. If you went into the changing room, you wouldn't pick him 'from Adam'.

"He's always just trying to work. He'd stand out in training because he's always working hard. He's just got a great head on his shoulders. That's the big thing.

"But again, it's kind of off the ball, the things that he does. You're on the ball maybe five per cent of the time in a game.

"He does a lot of off the ball running, which brings a lot of other players into the game. So he's unselfish.

"Ah, he's a great talent."

Winning

Naturally, Cuala are huge favourites for Sunday's Leinster final but Schutte is aware that not too long ago, Kilcormac were appearing in their own All-Ireland club final on their way to winning their own domestic three-in-a-row.

"They beat Ballyhale (Kilkenny) in their pomp and Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary)," he noted, "so they have a few big scalps there.

"I think they have conceded maybe four goals in their last ten games so they won't concede much and we'll have to work on ways of penetrating their defence.

"It will be tough," he adds, "but it's a Leinster final. You have to expect that," concludes Paul whose injured brother Mark is expected to miss out again this weekend owing to his ankle injury.

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