Paul Schutte's competitive genes
By John Harrington
Paul Schutte’s competitive spirit was plain to see when he helped Cuala to victory over Ballyea in the AIB All-Ireland Club Championship Final on St. Patrick’s day this year.
He braved the pain barrier to play in the match just three weeks after breaking his finger and having three pins inserted in it to hold it together.
For those who know him, Schutte’s decision wasn’t all that surprising because he comes from a family of competitors.
His father Karl was a talented hurler himself in his day, winning three county titles with Cuala, while his mother Margaret was an Irish international volley-ball player.
Schutte’s uncles on his mother’s side are PJ, Vinny and the late Mick Holden who all hurled for Dublin, and across the extended family there’s always been a healthy competitive streak.
“I set out to win four Dublin championships because my Dad won three, I just wanted to get one better than him,” Schutte told GAA.ie with a smile.
“When we finally won our first championship my uncles were very quick to say, 'Well, we've three'.
“Thanks lads for letting me have my one moment!
“Then when we won the second we were able to say to them, 'We did the back to back and you never did'. And they were, like, 'Yeah, but we still have three championships'.
“So then finally we won the third one this year and we're finally starting to get all of our own back with the slagging.
“I was talking to Vinny (Holden) after the County Final and he was telling me he's sick of hearing us talk after games and making speeches. There's plenty of slagging all the time!”
It was Schutte’s fortune to grow up with a generation of players in Cuala who shared his competitive spirit as well as flair for hurling.
Complementing those qualities is also a robust confidence in their own ability that you wouldn’t have always associated with Dublin hurlers.
Cuala are the first ever Dublin side to win the All-Ireland Hurling Club Championship, but they haven’t exactly surprised themselves by achieving that feat.
“Oisin Gough, in fairness to him, was very visionary,” said Schutte. “He was always like, 'We need to go for an All-Ireland'. And the rest of us just followed him along.
“I remember after we lost the County Final to Crokes in 2012, in the changing room afterwards we were very upset.
“We all would have been very young, the average age was maybe 19 or 20. Colm Cronin and Cian O'Callaghan played their first games having not trained with us all year, they were still minors.
“We lost that game, but I remember in the dressing-room afterwards saying, 'There's a Leinster Championship in this team in the next three years'.
“Now, it didn't quite work out as three years. We got to a Leinster Final (three years later) but lost it. I just felt if we stuck at it then the sky would be the limit for the group and that's how it has happened.”
Winning the All-Ireland has done nothing to diminish the hunger of this Cuala team.
They showed a lot of grit to claim a hard-fought third Dublin championship in a row, and will go into Sunday’s AIB Leinster Club SHC Final against Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey as warm favourites.
The players themselves are keenly aware this group has the talent to keep doing great things, and they’re determined to leave an indelible mark in the history-books.
“You get a very small window,” said Schutte. “There's no emotion or sentiment in sport. You don't get what you deserve, you have to go out and take it, really.
“There's plenty of good players like Ken McGrath who you would have said deserved to win an All-Ireland medal, but he was unfortunate enough not to get one.
“Sport doesn't work that way. If you get an opportunity you just have to take it. We've got a big opportunity on Sunday.
“I don't want to start this whole campaign all over again if we lose on Sunday because it's a long, long road back.
“We just have to take this chance.”