Cuala head for Croke Park today eager to join an elite club who have won back-to-back All-Ireland club titles. Portumna, Birr, Athenry and Sarsfields are the teams who have achieved the feat to date, and 60 minutes separate the Dalkey outfit from joining those sides today.
It is undoubtedly a golden generation at the southside club, and Mattie Kenny’s side will be hoping to make hay while the sun shines.
Speaking ahead of the game, Cian O’Callaghan revealed they’re conscious that this success might not last forever.
“Every day you go out, you just have to make it count. Every time you put on that jersey, you don’t know how many days you’ll get like that. You don’t know who’s going to get injured. You don’t know who’s going to get married and move away.”
It’s a decider between the last two champions, and is well set up to be a thriller. Even in the early stages of the provincial championships, there was a sense that these were the two top teams in the country, and that they’d win through to the decider.
O’Callaghan said Cuala aren’t getting drawn into any narrative when asked if this is the dream final.
“That wouldn’t be something that would come into my mind at all. I’d say that’s best left to your families and your supporters, and people down in the pub having a chat, building up to that kind of atmosphere, that kind of excitement. That’s the kind of talk you’d be talking about. But as a player, you’re in a bubble. You have to perform at the level you want to perform at.”
Cuala’s last trip to Croke Park couldn’t have gone much better. In many ways, it was a perfect storm as they saw off Ballyea by 12 points. Tony Kelly was stifled by the Cuala backs, in what was one of the great hurling team performances of 2017.
“You go into these matches and you fully expect them to go down to the wire. And that’s natural because once you get to this level, the teams you are playing are top quality. Pretty much every team you play, once you get to All-Ireland semi-final stage, you’re pretty much playing at intercounty standard. So you’re preparing yourself for a battle.
“I suppose last year we got a bit of the rub of the green in that final. Things went well at certain points in the match. That was by no means a cake-walk against Ballyea, they were a serious team. At pivotal points in the match we got a few lucky breaks, so you have to run with those breaks.”
The experience of that day will stand to O’Callaghan and Cuala, but today’s opposition aren’t exactly found wanting in that department either.
“I think having that bit of experience is definitely a help, just in terms of knowing what went well in training last year, what didn’t go well. What kind of preparation worked the best. But at the same time Na Piarsaigh are in a similar boat.
“I think they’ve won five Munsters in the last seven or eight years, which is obviously massive so they’re bringing something completely new to the table. We’re looking forward to it.”
It promises to be a cracker.
Cuala’s Cian O’Callaghan was speaking ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park on Saturday, 17th of March where the Dublin club will face Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh.
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