Cuala can build on last year’s disappointment to deny O’Loughlins

Preview: Leinster SHC club final – Cuala (Dublin) v O’Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny), O’Moore Park, 2.0

From one perspective the burden of experience looks to favour the Kilkenny champions. All-Ireland finalists six seasons ago, they even retain a scattering of survivors from the club's first Leinster title in 2003, including players, like Brian Hogan and Martin Comerford, who touched the sky during the county's incomparable heyday.

Cuala bring a different type of experience. A young team with plenty of talent they learned the hard way 12 months ago that you frequently have to pay your dues to progress in what is a remarkably open championship, considering the domination of Kilkenny at county level.

The failure last year to raise any sort of a gallop until it was too late has haunted Cuala and they are fortunate to be back and in a position to rectify the situation.

Having beaten both the Offaly and Kilkenny champions in the run to the 2015 final, Cuala have had a less public route to the decider this time around – dealing efficiently with Laois’s Borris/Kilcotton and Carlow’s St Mullins – and will hope to have learned from the pitfalls of last year when they never got into gear against Oulart-The Ballagh.



Coincidentally O’Loughlin’s did something similar against the


champions in last month’s semi-final but some timely goals turned the match on its head – frustratingly for Oulart who had painstakingly built a defence with a justified reputation for keeping green flags out of sight.

Cuala have been focused on getting back to the table in Leinster and nearly paid the price in the Dublin final before steadying and beating off Kilmacud. Their forwards have been the centre of attention in the province. Dublin footballer Con O'Callaghan has scored 5-6 to date with his speed and elusiveness whereas David Treacy can shoot from farther and cashes in nearly every free.

Seán Treacy looks back in form and Mark Schutte can have a big influence if he's not isolated.

Cuala were criticised last year for maintaining a defensive formation even when the match was evaporating but such rigidity may be crucial this weekend. O'Loughlin's are an extraordinarily fit and hard-working team and in veteran Comerford, Mark Bergin, who featured for Kilkenny in this year's championship, and Mark Kelly who drifts in and out of attack they have players who will need to be minded carefully.

In one respect the Dublin side are markedly improved on last year is the return from injury of Paul Schutte to the defence.

One neutral put the question like this: “O’Loughlin Gaels will be ready for war; are Cuala?”

The answer here is “yes”.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times