‘We all know we have to step up’

Cud­dihy ‘gun­ning’ for Kil­dare

Bray People - - SPORT - DANIEL GOR­MAN Sports Re­porter

WICK­LOW are gun­ning for re­venge as they pre­pare to go to war with Kil­dare on Satur­day in the first round of the Christy Ring Cup.

Kil­dare were the side that con­demned Casey O’Brien’s side to rel­e­ga­tion last year, and on Satur­day the Gar­den County will be out for re­venge in a com­pe­ti­tion that Billy Cud­dihy be­lieves holds no fears for Wick­low.

With their su­perb league form back­ing them up, Cud­dihy can see no rea­son to worry and he can­not wait to get back onto the bat­tle­field against the ri­vals.

“The ex­cite­ments build­ing and we’re all look­ing for­ward to the game. We’d be ner­vous enough as well just to get the cam­paign un­der­way.

“Af­ter win­ning the league and get­ting back up into that di­vi­sion af­ter get­ting hard done by com­ing down out of it last year. We thought we held our own in a lot of the games, we had one bad game against Derry but apart from that, we came up on the wrong side of luck which hap­pens but we’d be con­fi­dent af­ter com­ing back up.”

Wick­low will be hop­ing to in­flict some mis­ery and ex­act some re­venge on Kil­dare, the side re­spon­si­ble for rel­e­gat­ing them in 2013.

“That’s who put us down last year so we’re gun­ning for them. You don’t re­ally need any re­venge for Kil­dare, our­selves and Kil­dare go a long way back. We’ve al­ways been in around the same league, the same di­vi­sion, the same cham­pi­onship and we’ve had the up­per hand on them over the years but then they got two over us last year. You’d know a lot of the lads just from hurl­ing against them over the years. They’re a lo­cal derby, they’re a neigh­bour­ing county. I’m look­ing for­ward to it. As soon as the draw was made we were lick­ing our lips.

“With Kil­dare and Wick­low it doesn’t mat­ter about form. Like any of these der­bies, there was one year we were nearly two di­vi­sions be­low them but we came up and we beat them in New­bridge. That would’ve been against the form but I don’t think form mat­ters, over the years Wick­low and Kil­dare have al­ways been tight af­fairs. They were on top of us for a few years and then we got on top of them. They got one over us last year so it kind of tos and fros. Hope­fully it’ll go the right way this week.”

Should it go right, the prospect of lift­ing the Christy Ring Cup will move a step closer. And should that dream be­come a re­al­ity, the Eire Og cor­ner back won’t be dread­ing draw­ing any­one in the next round.

“Beat­ing Down kind of proves that we wouldn’t fear any­one. We’ve beaten ev­ery­one that’s in it over the last three years. We’ve played and beaten ev­ery team that’s in it; we beat Kerry, we beat Derry, we’ve beaten Down, we’ve beaten Meath. Kerry have been in very good form but then again we wouldn’t fear them ei­ther.”

If Wick­low do reach the lat­ter stages of the com­pe­ti­tion, they will have two new ar­rivals to bed into their squad; Ea­monn Kearns and Chris Ka­vanagh have both re­turned from their trav­els and are now look­ing to fight their way into the side. And al­though Cud­dihy ad­mits it’s a plus to have the two tal­ented hurlers com­ing in, he won’t be think­ing about them on Satur­day, Kil­dare will be the sole one and only thing on his mind.

“Ea­monn was there at the start of the year, he did all the pre-sea­son work and then he went off for work in Amer­ica in Chicago. He’s been mind­ing him­self. Ea­mon is one of the best play­ers we have in the county and it’s great to have him back. He won’t be back in time for Kil­dare, he’ll be back af­ter – maybe the Tues­day af­ter. It’ll be a big boost mov­ing for­ward hope­fully. But we’re only look­ing at Kil­dare for the time be­ing.

“Chris was in there about three years ago and he’s been in Aus­tralia. Chris is an­other very good hurler and it brings an­other bit of depth to the bench. It builds the squad.”

The pri­mary school teacher has his own fish to fry though. Be­fore he can start dwelling on new ar­rivals, he has his own per­for­mances to worry about. And he feels there is def­i­nitely room to im­prove.

“Not par­tic­u­larly (happy with my own per­for­mances). I haven’t been as dom­i­nant as I might have been in other years. Peak­ing time is the cham­pi­onship, that’s when you want to be do­ing your good hurl­ing, the league is al­ways about get­ting re­sults and we got the re­sults so I’d be happy with that. We all know that we have to step it up an­other level, ev­ery­one knows that. Cham­pi­onship is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ball game. Even the league fi­nal there, it’s his­tory, it doesn’t count for any­thing if you don’t win the cham­pi­onship.”

Ev­ery good team needs a good man­ager though and Cud­dihy is ex­tremely grate­ful to Casey O’Brien for the im­pact he has had on Wick­low hurl­ing, fresh­en­ing it up af­ter a pe­riod of dark­ness.

“I’m play­ing a good few years now. You have to give credit to Casey. When Casey took it on, we were down in Di­vi­sion 3B I think at the time and things were go­ing fairly badly and the shine of play­ing for your county was gone out a lit­tle bit I think. He brought back that pas­sion and that pride in the jersey and ever since then we’ve been on the up. I’d re­ally like to cap it off this year and push on.”

If Cud­dihy wants to re­pay O’Brien, there is no bet­ter time to start than on Satur­day in New­bridge. Throw-in time is 2.30pm.

Wick­low’s Billy Cud­dihy in ac­tion against Down’s Conor O’Prey.

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