Cuala GAA Club in Dalkey was celebrating last night after becoming only the fifth team ever to win back to back Leinster Club Championship Hurling Titles.
Only one of those, Birr, ever went on to retain the AIB All Ireland Club Championship but that is firmly on the Cuala roadmap now with an All Ireland semi final against Liam Mellows of Galway to keep the club warm over the winter.
Success on the field has been mirrored in Dalkey by an understanding that the management of a club the size of which it has become is dependent on good people and good strategic thinking.
Last week GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail was in Dalkey to launch the club’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2022.
“The Centenary of Cuala Hurling Club in 2018 offers the Club a chance not only celebrate a long list of proud achievements – but also represents an opportunity to reflect, take stock and plan for the future,” he said.
Strength and Success
“There is never a wrong time to make such a plan, but there’s a lot to be said for Cuala taking these steps now, at a time of strength and success, rather than doing so when things are different, when success is thin on the ground and the road ahead looks steep and arduous. There are no short cuts and no easy answers. But to your credit, the people in Cuala already know this.”
The size of the club is one that would make many country clubs have to sit down with membership of almost 2,500 today expected to top 3,000 by 2022.
The development of ‘superclubs’ in South County Dublin has shifted the balance of power within the county with Cuala, Ballyboden St Enda’s and Kilmacud Crokes winning all of the last eleven Dublin Club Hurling Championships between them and four of the last ten in football as well.
It’s not likely to be different in the short term either. Cuala’s hinterland of Dun Laoghaire and surrounding areas is estimated to be creating new housing, town centres and schools over the next five years that will lead to an additional 19,500 children whose first look in terms of a GAA club will be towards Cuala.
That alone presents a massive challenge, one which is exacerbated by the fact that of all the local authorities in Ireland, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown is the one with the least available land to develop for sporting use.
The Strategic Plan lists over 100 actions to be undertaken in areas of facilities, community, coaching, sponsorship and more that need to be undertaken in order to ensure that growth remains an opportunity for the club.
It has drawn on a wide and diverse membership to get this far and the challenge now will be to maintain people’s energy and enthusiasm in a wholly volunteer capacity.
Having a plan against which progress can be made and measured is an essential first step and that is what the club, working with a number of outside helpers including former GAA Head of Communications Lisa Clancy has delivered.
The next stage will commence at the club’s AGM before Christmas when the officers of the club for next year, who will play a critical role in giving this document life, are elected.
On days like yesterday when the glow of winning at the highest level is shared across members ranging in age from 90 years to a matter of days, the enthusiasm and vigour is easy to see.
The challenge is that it is in the committee rooms and the late nights that the work off the pitch has to come to life.
Of course there is enough energy across the membership to make this work. The trick will be to inspire them to put their hands up, and make it easy to bring together the skills that are there without exhausting them.
It is a road where partnerships with the local community, the local council and other local sporting groups and schools will need to be maintained, fostered and developed. The prize of maintaining the Clubs status as the best Sports Club in Ireland as voted by by the Irish Times last year is one then that every member, having made their own contribution in skill, time or support, will feel a sense of genuine reward.
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