Injury clouds clear for Mark
Schutte back in form for Cuala after tough year cut short by ankle and shoulder problems
One of the annual features of the clandestine pre-Championship challenge match circuit is the exaggerated relaying of the form of some or other reportedly 'flying' player.
In this context, there was a detectable tingle of excitement in the small but committed cirlce of Dublin hurling aficionados over the behind-closed-doors performances of Mark Schutte back in April.
The scale of his output varied depending on the teller but there was no-one contradicting the assertion that Schutte was both fit and 'flying'.
Schutte's form was a potentially significant development for Dublin.
Extended club commitments, football and injury had contrived to deprive Dublin of Schutte's rare mix of size, pace and scoring-ability for almost three years.
Vitally, these are talents best utilised in the area of Dublin's greatest need.
Mattie Kenny's arrival as manager and a couple of inactive summers with the Dublin footballers meant his repatriation with the hurlers last November was widely expected.
His stunning performance in the replayed All-Ireland club final against Na Piarsaigh the previous March was a sizzling reminder of what the team would be regaining.
Initially, an ankle injury kept him out of the League but despite that, it seemed that Schutte's timing had been ideal.
Full fitness and form were found just in time for Dublin's Leinster SHC opener against Kilkenny in Nowlan, where he was due to start his first competitive inter-county hurling match since July 4th, 2016.
And then Schutte suffered another shoulder injury.
"It was frustrating," he admitted after Cuala's Dublin SHC semi-final victory over St Vincent's last Sunday, just his second competitive game since returning to play.
"I had an ankle injury prior to that and missed the league. From that point of view, just to get back playing games is great.
"I'm probably just simplifying things for myself, just playing rather than even winning is a great feeling for myself.
"Getting two games back to back, I'm just delighted with that."
It would be difficult to quantify the extent of suffering to which Schutte has been subjected by his own shoulders.
It is, he has painfully learned, a genetic thing.
In 2016, Schutte's older brother Paul underwent shoulder reconstruction surgey and later revealed: "When I was in with the surgeon, he was telling me the family history.
"Because the family were funding the left wing of Santry Sports Clinic!"
"It is a hereditary thing, loose joints. You see a lot of repeat offenders."
Back in 2014, Mark dislocated his shoulder in the opening minutes of Dublin's Leinster SHC win over Wexford and missed the rest of that summer.
Before this year, he had already had two separate surgeries on his shoulders.
Thankfully for Schutte, Mattie Kenny and Kenny's replacement at Cuala, Willie Maher, there was no sign of any lingering after-effects of injury against Vincent's on Sunday,
Schutte scored 1-3, set up Seán Treacy's early goal and won most of the ball was that directed to him.
While much of the attention on Cuala's resurgence this year has naturally been around the ease with which Con O'Callaghan has switched codes, Schutte's return to fitness is equally significant for the club.
"We fell at this hurdle last year and it was probably one of our big motivations, to get back to another final," observed Schutte after Cuala qualified for their fourth final in five years against St. Brigid's on November 20th.
'"Any time you lose it will kind of haunt you and you'll learn from things and stuff.
"I suppose yeah, last year, losing that semi-final, it was tough.
"Probably we were beaten by a better team on the day in Crokes. There was a change of management them and it was all new and fresh.
"Last year we were coming off two tough years and we probably were a bit lethargic.
"Just this year is a fresh year and we really want to get back to a county final and thank God we've got that."