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Can Cuala end Dublin club hurling's losing run in Leinster?

Dublin sides have appeared in nine Leinster finals, losing eight.

“ALL THE TIME after that (Oulart) match, we felt it was one we left behind us. We didn’t do ourselves justice. So there is unfinished business there for us.”
-David Treacy, Cuala  

David Treacy takes a sideline cut Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The Holden brothers were there from the start. Tom Holden lived in Dún Laoghaire, but his heart still lay back home in South Kilkenny.

Each summer his three sons, PJ, Mick and Vinnie, would pitch up deep in hurling country in Mullinavat. That’s where it all began.

There were a couple of other hurling-mad families in the area and a few adults set up a street league. It took off. Within a few years, the kids from the street league were beginning to dominate the underage hurling scene in the county.

In 1969, Cuala won a clean-sweep of U15, U16 and minor county titles. There was at least one Holden on each team and the same year the trio remarkably all started for the Dublin minors the same year.

Mick, who was only 14 at the time, was the goalkeeper for the minors. He would go on to enjoy an outstanding dual career with the Dubs, winning an All-Ireland SFC title in 1983. He died aged 52 in 2007, but his legacy in the club lives on.

There are plenty of strong links between the Holden brothers and the current crop of trailblazers. The Schuttes are their nephews, while the fathers of The Goughs, the Treacys and the O’Callaghans all hurled with PJ, Mick and Vinnie.

Mattie Kenny’s squad are just about as talented as any group to represent the club. Last year they won a first Dublin SHC since 1994, and backed that up by making it all the way to the Leinster final, before losing to Oulart the Ballagh.

David Treacy Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

That defeat was keeping in line with Dublin clubs in the province. Since the competition started in 1970, teams from the capital have appeared in nine finals, losing eight.

UCD were beaten in three provincial deciders since the turn of the century,  while Ballyboden won five straight Dublin titles between 2007-2011 and still couldn’t get over the line.

Dublin clubs in Leinster finals
2015: Oulart the Ballagh 2-13 Cuala 0-13
2007: Birr 1-11 Ballyboden St Enda’s 0-13
2005: James Stephens 2-13 UCD 1-12
2004: James Stephens 1-13 UCD 1-12
2000: Graigue-Ballycallan 0-14 UCD 1-8
1996: Camross 1-12 O’Toole’s 2-5
1989: Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-11 Cuala 0-7
1979: Crumlin 3-5 Camross 0-11
1978: Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-13 Crumlin 1-6
*Dublin sides are in bold

Ballyboden lost Leinster semi-finals to O’Loughlin Gaels in 2010 and Coolderry in 2011, but there was worse to come.

In 2013 they were shell-sh0cked by Carlow outfit Mount Leinster Rangers in the last four. All three clubs would go on to reach the All-Ireland final.

“Crumlin were the last team to do it in 79,” says former Dublin selector Ciaran Hetherton. “Ballyboden won five-in-a-row in Dublin but couldn’t win Leinster, so it would be a great achievement.

“In fairness to Mattie Kenny he’s doing a great job there. He’s only there two years so far and he’s doing a great job.”

Cuala have undoubtedly benefited from the capital city’s urban sprawl in recent years. The club has 1,600 active members and draws from almost 1,000 homes in the area. On of the south side’s ‘super-clubs,’ Cuala’s numbers have swelled in the last 20 years.

Cuala fans Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Around 300 kids show up for coaching every Saturday at the club’s Hyde Road pitches. It’s estimated they have the largest GAA nursery in the country on their hands.

As the club has expanded, they’ve seen plenty of representatives on the inter-county scene.

“They seem to be a well balanced team,” continues Hetherton. “The couple of inter-county lads they have have just strengthened that. They have good lads around in other positions as well.

“Obviously the pace of Darragh O’Connell in midfield and the prowess of David Treacy and Mark Schutte up front gives them the edge on some club teams, both in Dublin and Leinster.

“They have had an easy run to get to a Leinster final, playing the Carlow and the Westmeath champions, so they haven’t probably been tested as well as O’Loughlin Gaels have. But it is a great opportunity for them.”

Con O'Callaghan after the final whistle Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“The likes of Paul Schutte and Oisin Gough, they have stars all over each line – Cian O’Callaghan at full-back. They have plenty of options there – even in the full-back line they have three lads that played inter-county hurling there.”

You’ve also got county footballer Con O’Callaghan in attack, who has posted 5-6 in his last two games.

Despite all that talent, history tells us Cuala are up against it as they play in the club’s third ever Leinster final. They lost by 10 in 1989 and six a year ago.

They’re coming up against a team who’ve been crowned Leinster champions twice, in 2003 and 2010. It will take something pretty special to stop the rot. No doubt Mick Holden will be looking down with pride.

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Kevin O'Brien

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