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Dublin: 0°C Saturday 10 April 2021

'Oisin Gough was very visionary. He was like, 'No, we need to go for an All-Ireland''

Cuala had remarkable self belief in their ability even before they started to dominate in Dublin.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

CUALA HAVE BECOME a dominant force in Dublin and Leinster over the past few seasons, but it was after a county final defeat in 2012 when Paul Schutte realised what they were capable of.

Five years ago the Dalkey club lost by seven points to Kilmacud Crokes in their first decider appearance since 1994. Schutte saw enough in his young teammates that day to suggest Cuala had a bright future.

“I remember after we lost the county final to Crokes in 2012 in the changing room afterwards we were very upset,” the defender says.

“We all would have been very young, the average age was maybe 19 or 20. Colm Cronin and Cian O’Connell played their first games having not trained with us all year, they were still minors.

“We lost that game, but I remember in the dressing-room afterwards saying, ‘There’s a Leinster championship in this team in the next three years’.

“Now, it didn’t quite work out as three years. We got to a Leinster final but lost it. I just felt if we stuck at it then the sky would be the limit for the group and that’s how its happened.”

While he believed the club could elevate themselves to provincial glory, other players had their sights set even higher.

“Oisin Gough, in fairness to him, was very visionary. He was like, ‘No, we need to go for an All-Ireland’. And the rest of us just followed him along.

“The group of players I grew up with, we won underage and had a good team, so we kind of expected that to follow us up to senior which was probably a bit naive at the time.

“We probably didn’t think it would come to this level where we would win an All-Ireland and be going for back to back Leinsters. But I did set out to win four Dublin championships because my Dad won three. I just wanted to get one better than him!”

Paul Schutte lifts the trophy Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It’s not just his father he wanted to better. Schutte’s mother is a Holden with strong  Kilkenny links – Paul’s younger brother Mark even admitted to supporting the Cats while growing up.

Among their cousins are current Kilkenny star Joey Holden and the retired seven-time All-Ireland winner Brian Hogan, while Cuala legends PJ, Vinny and the late Mick Holden are their uncles.

His three uncles won a hat-trick of titles alongside Schutte’s father with Cuala during a prosperious period in the 1990s, a record he was delighted to equal in October.

“When we finally won our first championship my uncles were very quick to say, ‘Well, we’ve three’. Thanks for letting me have my one moment!

“Then when we won the second we were able to say to them, ‘we did the back to back and you never did’. And they were, like, ‘Yeah, but we still have three championships’.

“So then finally we won the third one and we’re finally starting to get all of our own back with the slagging.

“I was talking to Vinny after the game and he was telling me he’s sick of hearing us talk after games and making speeches. There’s plenty of slagging all the time!”

Schutte, who’s currently studying for his financial planning exams, wasn’t part of the Dublin set-up last season and isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be part of Pat Gilroy’s plans in 2018.

“I haven’t had any time, genuinely, to think about it. Because I’m busy doing exams and working away and with Cuala on top of that.

“I’ll think about it after this competition. That’s all assuming that Pat would want me back. That would be a big assumption.”

For now, there’s a Leinster title to worry about. Just like he predicted in the losing dressing room five years ago.

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