‘We all know we have to step up’
Cuddihy ‘gunning’ for Kildare
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.