Cuala's remarkable rise
By Cian O’Connell
Cuala’s remarkable resurgence continues - the toil is now being rewarded with trophies. The item of silverware Cuala crave, though, presently is a Leinster SHC so Sunday’s provincial decider with O’Loughlin Gaels carries intrigue.
Three Dublin titles were gathered by Cuala between 1989 and 1994, but the intervening years were spent investing time, energy, and effort in the underage grades.
Cuala’s flag was placed on the summit of the Dublin game again in 2015 and the fact that they have retained the title proves their class.
Chairman Adrian Dunne stresses the importance of the Academy structure that Cuala have implemented. “When everything was going well in the late 80s, we contested a hurling final in 87, a football final in 88, before winning the hurling in 89 – very little was going on in the juvenile section of the club.
“The Christian Brothers School in Dun Laoghaire was our main feeder school, they were producing players, putting in the work. Even though we went on to win a Dublin Championship again in 1994 we were probably lucky to win it, the team was the other side of the hill at that stage.
“In the mid to late 90s there was a realisation within the club that we needed to work hard at underage level.
“A group with guys like David Treacy and Paul Schutte were the first to come through and when they did that gave everyone a boost.
“The lads that won under 21 Dublin Championships in hurling and football backbone the current team and we are lucky to have them.”
It is a hectic time for Cuala with several hundred children immersed in Gaelic Games activities every week. “Right across the board things have gone well for us,” Dunne admits. “We have 80 teams, all the adult teams did well, the senior hurlers are an exceptional bunch of players and I suppose we are hoping to make hay while the sun shines.”
Every year 120 new children arrive into the club with Dunne highlighting the role former players are now occupying in Cuala’s development, who have a membership of more than 1,600.
“We start with 120 new kids every year, 80 boys and 40 girls. That is what we have now coming into the Academy.
“It is a huge task to keep it going, but what we are seeing now is guys that are coming back to the club which is brilliant.
“Guys who played in the 80s and 90s, a lot of them had to leave the area because they couldn’t afford to live in the area, but we seem to have more players coming back now with their children which is a great thing for us.”
Dunne highlights the influence of Tipperary native John Hennessy, who sadly passed away last month. “People like John Hennessy always did the best for the club, his first grandchild started in the Academy in September. He would be widely known in Dublin hurling circles and people like him helped the club hugely.”
So the fact that Cuala are so well represented on Dublin inter-county teams in both codes is a source of significant pride.
“We had eight involved with the senior hurlers and two with the footballers this year,” Dunne remarks. “It is a reflection of what has gone on at Academy level and across the board we have guys representing Dublin which is brilliant for the club.”
A year ago Cuala were defeated by Oulart-The Ballagh in the Leinster Final, but that is the stage the Dublin standard bearers return to this weekend.
Former Galway selector Mattie Kenny is still in charge with Dunne encouraged by his impact. “ Mattie is infectious, his attention to detail, his enthusiasm and the way he pulls them all along with him, we are lucky to have him,” Dunne says.
“He saw the potential when he came in a few years ago, he got the players to believe. We were in a final in 2012, but the team is completely different now even though we have many of the same faces. They now go out believing they can win every single game.”