Date with destiny

by James Hendicott

AS CUALA prepare for the biggest match in the club history – an All-Ireland semi-final that they go into as hot favourites, according to the bookies – the Dalkey club are trying their hardest to see the contest as “just another game”.
Having never taken a Leinster title before their win over Kilkenny’s O’Loughlin Gaels late last year, Cuala face fairytale Derry outfit Slaughtneil for a place in the Paddy’s Day decider.
The small-town Ulster club already scored a stunning against-the-odds win over Marino side St Vincent’s in the football semi-final two weeks ago.
“We’ve had very good preparation, we’ve tried to treat it just like we would any other game,” selector Tadhg Murphy told GazetteSport of Cuala’s build up.
“We’ve just been following our process. You can’t account for everything that might happen on the day, so you just have to do what you usually do, work on your systems.
“We’re at full strength, and we’ve been very thorough looking into Slaughtneil, as I’m sure they have been with us. We’re not about to take anything for granted.”
That’s been the philosophy for Cuala for much of their run, with Murphy pointing out that their progress has been a struggle from the early days, despite the club’s consistent improvement over the last few years as they reach highs surpassing their late 80s/early 90s heydays.
“Some of the toughest games we had to play to get here came while we were still in Dublin.
“But we learnt our lesson when we lost [the Leinster final] to Oulart The Ballagh in 2015. We just didn’t turn up that day, and we got beaten. There’s no easy game, but at this stage you have to focus fully on them all.
“We won’t pay too much attention to what happened with Vincent’s a couple of weeks ago. It’s another code. But, obviously, we’re aware that a lot of their players were involved in that game, being dual code.
“The club have been everywhere, there’s been a lot of coverage, which is understandable because what they’ve done is incredible. We’re expecting them to be very fit. It’ll go absolutely down to the wire.”
Cuala have been followed passionately by a band of young ‘ultras’ throughout the campaign, and Murphy says the club are grateful for the community support that’s rallied around the run.
“We’re not sure exactly how many will travel themselves,” he said of Saturday’s journey up north, “but we have a couple of coaches going up on the day. The community side of things has been fantastic, it’s a real family affair.”
The Dalkey side face their date with destiny at Armagh’s Athletic Grounds at 3pm on Saturday. Tickets are available from the club shop for €10 between 9.15am and 1pm until Friday.

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