Cuala are looking to start their title SHC title defence on the front foot. Picture: Colin Behan

CUALA begin their defence as Dublin senior hurling champions with a potentially decisive opening fixture versus Kilmacud Crokes, a local rival and one of their key challengers for the title.
The pair have shared continued success in recent years, Cuala winning their fourth championship last year and Kilmacud succeeding the year previous in 2014, the club’s sixth.
The Hyde Road side were drawn in Group 1 as alongside Crokes, St Vincent’s and Ballinteer St Johns and will face Kilmacud this Saturday evening at Parnell Park.
Cuala will welcome back a number of Dublin senior hurlers to the side following county commitments, including Con O’Callaghan Paul Schutte, Oisin Gough, Colm Cronin, David Treacy and Mark Schutte.
It is something which selector JP Byrne feels will no doubt help his side but adds that Dublin hurlers receive no preferential treatment at the club.
“When the lads come back into the side they are team players just like everyone else”, he said speaking to GazetteSport. “They’re all great players in their own right but they are all very mature and when they come in they don’t expect any sort of special treatment.
“We’re not dealing with egos; they are just good, solid club men at the end of the day, so they just roll back in with the other lads and pick it up from there.”
Kilmacud, too, possess a number of quality hurlers in their ranks such as Oisin O’Rorke, Niall Corcoran and Ryan O’Dwyer and will be vying to take the title back from Cuala, starting this weekend.
“Both teams are probably looking to set down markers”, said Byrne on the early nature of the massive fixture. “We’ll expect a massive challenge from them and they will be expecting nothing less from us.”
After three high-scoring wins in AHL1, Cuala stepped up their preparations with a challenge game against St Jude’s, who they beat in last year’s championship final, seeing off the Terenure side 1-12 to 1-11 on a wet and windy morning at Bray Emmets.
Byrne describes the game as an “academic affair”, with a number of younger players given the opportunity to play in the senior team given the absence of the senior Dublin hurlers in the side.
“It gave younger members who have come in the team from the minor panel the opportunity to play as a level that they might not have been used to before”, he explained. “It gives them the opportunity to develop and process.”
No major injuries have been sustained by Cuala with all players in the panel likely available for Saturday’s game at Parnell Park at 5.30pm.