CUALA selector JP Byrne is confident his club are going into the AHL Division 1 season in good shape, buoyed by the availability of Oisin Gough on a permanent basis.
The Hyde Road club have seen their intercounty contingent increase to six players in recent times with Simon Timlin and Colm Cronin both establishing themselves in Anthony Daly’s panel.
But Gough has stepped away from the senior set-up to focus on his PhD studies this year while continuing to play at club level, giving Cuala a strong leader with bags of experience.
Speaking about the new season, Byrne says that it is the kind of player that will be key to the team in the early phases of the season as they look to bed in a number of new faces when they take on St Jude’s on opening day this Sunday at 10.30am in Shankill.
“Oisin would be certainly one to watch out for this year. He’s still very much a county standard player and is a good leader,” Byrne told GazetteSport.
“We have a relatively young team. There are currently six of the players with the county panel and so there’s a large number of minors coming through from last year.
“We’ve been training for the past four weeks with a view to integrating that group into the various panels and it’s been going very well with the players that we have.”
The side will be light of John Sheanon’s services through injury until autumn at the earliest while it is tricky to know whether the likes of David Treacy, Cian O’Callaghan, Timlin and Cronin will be available.
But Byrne expects players like Bobby Browne to continue to be a key presence while Sean Treacy, last year’s Dublin minor captain, could make a big impact.
They are being guided by former Galway coach Mattie Kenny and he has put together a progressive preseason plan that has put the Dalkey club in good shape.
“Mattie is a top class coach and the players have responded well to him. He has upped the level in terms of intensity of drills. He is an excellent coach I would have to say.
“There’s never anything in it between ourselves and Jude’s. To date, when we are at home, we tend to edge the result and when they are at home, they tend to win. They are a good side and while it is hard to gauge at this stage, I hear they are going well but it is hard to know.
“There’s always a job of work to do to get all the lads together with lads studying, playing colleges and intercounty. There’s all sorts of issues when you are trying to get some momentum behind the team but I think we have managed it quite well and there is a good spirit in the camp.”