One of the revelations of Cuala’s run to their second successive All-Ireland club hurling final has been their ubiquitous supporters group, the Cuala Ultras.
While David Treacy and chief marksman Con O’Callaghan has lit up the field of play, the support of their legion of young fans have stolen the show wherever they have gone, providing colour and great vocal support for the team in moments of need.
This group of young fans was particularly prominent in the semi-final victory over Liam Mellows of Galway, travelling en masse to Semple Stadium by bus and by train.
Chants have been a crucial role, something rarely heard in GAA stands, with the Ultras drawing inspiration from diverse sources, from Celtic Park to schools matches, particularly from Colaiste Eoin games where many of the team had their formative years.
The team are certainly relish the Ultras’ support.
After the Leinster final last year, midfielder Jake Malone said: “the support this year has been second to none … when times got tough, the drove us on. They dug us out of the holes when we needed it”.
And so the Cuala train rolls on; for the supporters there are more train tickets to Croker to be booked as another All-Ireland final awaits on St Patrick’s day.
The Dublin Gazette spoke to a few members of the “ultras” this week to get their thoughts on the campaign so far and next Saturday’s match against Na Piarsaigh.
Ultras members Cormac Mahon, Luke Twomey, Darach ó Giollán and Conall ó Tuathail spoke to us this week about this season and the teams performances and how the club is feeling ahead of another all Ireland.
Luke: “The ultras were started by a group of about 10 people in the Cuala board room who sat together at matches and they started singing and chanting at matches.”
Cormac: “All the juvenile players in the club started sitting together at matches and we brought the megaphone in a while later and that added another level to it all together.
Darach: “I feel as though the players get the sense they are playing for a community instead of just playing for each other. The atmosphere created by the ultras really gives the team a lift.”
Cormac: “It’s not only the ultras who sing the songs all the fans do and the whole club is behind the team.”
Luke: “What this team has done is unbelievable for a small club from Dalkey to achieve this is unbelievable.”
Looking ahead to the final, the young fans reckon neutralising the Na Piarsaigh full-forward line will be a key area but confidence is high they can match last year’s performance against Ballyea. Indeed, they have a large bank of experience to draw from.
Cormac: Against Ballyea last year, everyone was talking about the damage Tony Kelly was going to do, but John Sheanon did an excellent job marking him and we’re hopeful he can do a similar job against Shane Dowling.
Conall: “I think it’s going to be a much closer game than last year.
“We’ve heard a lot about Na Piarsaigh and that they are preparing well and playing practice matches against intercounty opposition.
Luke: “The game last year in the Dublin final against Crokes when we were three points down and coming back to win by three was an important moment. I think it showed the guts and mental strength that this team has.
Conall: “Mattie Kenny is a very direct manager, he says it as it is. He’s been very direct with the team about the areas they need to improve.
“If the players have played well, he’ll let them know and if they have played poorly he’ll let them know as well.
“He’s worked on the team and he’s emphasised a high tackle rate. If you watch Cuala play, you’ll see them get right up in the opponents face and make it difficult for them.
Finally do you think your team will get the job done on Paddy’s day?
Luke (laughing): “Of course.