Thursday 17 January 2019

Cuala run the stuff of dreams - Mick Fitz

Bonds and friendships hatched as children have inspired Dalkey club's recent success

Michael Fitzsimons in action for the Cuala footballers. Pic: Garrett White
Michael Fitzsimons in action for the Cuala footballers. Pic: Garrett White

It's the week of Dublin's biggest match since last year's All-Ireland final yet Mick Fitzsimons has Cuala on the brain.

The club - his club - are an hour's hurling away from being All-Ireland champions.

"It's funny," he told the Herald this week in advance of what is, by any metric, a seismic day for Cuala and Dublin hurling generally.

"We did Celebrity Bainisteoir a few years ago and we thought that was the most buzz you'd see around Dalkey for the club."

That was back in 2009 when noted gael George Hook managed Cuala's then intermediate footballers to a one-point loss to Leitrim team, St. Patrick's from Dromahair.

Cuala captain Oisin Gough (left) celebrates winning the Leinster Club Championship title with David Treacy (centre) and Paul Schutte.
Cuala captain Oisin Gough (left) celebrates winning the Leinster Club Championship title with David Treacy (centre) and Paul Schutte.

It wasn't exactly Croke Park on St. Patrick's Day but the seeds planted by knowing people in the club a decade before had yet to flower.

"But the attention and excitement that this has brought…it's been phenomenal.


"It's definitely the stuff of dreams."

Mostly, Fitzsimons reckons, it was club itself, rather than the games, that drew him to Cuala and kept him there.

Unlike many of the hurling team that will take on Ballyea on Friday, he has no links to the succesful team of the late 80s/early 90s.

He didn't even live in the area until 1998, when his family moved from Leixlip.

"My parents were quite relaxed," he explains. "They didn't steer me in any direction for sport."

"Those lads were all there but there was never a sense of exclusivity," he notes.

"They would all be trying to get their friends involved and get more people involved in Cuala. Them and their parents, they're all hugely passionate about Cuala.

"It's no surprise that their kids got the bug as well and are all exceptional players."

After a brief dalliance with football and hurling aged seven, Fitzsimons went off to play soccer for six years but came back at the behest of his school mate, Ciarán McAdam.

"With the soccer, at the time, you went down and you played. But it didn't mean you got friendly with the lads." he recalls.

"Whereas there was an active effort to bond in Cuala.

"When you started playing at that age group in Cuala, the parents would have everyone around to the house. There was a huge support network.

"It's hard to tell whether the bonding and friendships all bled into the success or whether it was the success that made us all stick around and hang around with each other," Fitzsimons adds, "but I'd say it's the former."

He has, in the past, hurled with this team but playing inter-county football isn't compatible to playing club hurling these days.

Indeed the late Mick Holden, his predecessor as the last Cuala man to play Championship football for Dublin, was his minor hurling manager.


Fitzsimons was even physio when this team won their first Dublin SHC title in 2015.

"The games starting clashing," he explains. "Plus, the other physio is probably better..."

Being from Dalkey, the perception of the club and its place in the community is probably inevitable.

If they win on Friday, expect the old 'there won't be a cow milked in Dalkey...' jokes to do the rounds fairly quickly afterwards.

Neither will they light bonfires on Hyde Road, but that's not to say this team and their run hasn't captured the local imagination.

"Literally every shop has bunting up and flags and posters outside every shop," Fitzsimons explains.

"There's window painting. There's a great buzz.

"Like, most people in the area will know about the club. They might not necessarily know how the senior team is doing. But kids are flocking to the nursery. It's one of the biggest clubs in Ireland with regard to their senior setup.

"When the senior team won their first senior Championship," Fitzsimons adds, "the town didn't shut down or there were no marches through the street. But it's changing. Slowly but surely."

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