CUALA will have to face Erin’s Isle before they can confirm promotion from the AHL2 and their place in the league final play-off, with the side leading the league by three points, with their nearest rivals following in second and third by three points with a game in hand each.

The Dalkey side will be happy with their season so far, after being relegated from AHL1 last season and are now in a good position to gain promotion with such a prominent league placing.

However, with five of their panel missing due to intercounty loyalties, the challenge may prove difficult, despite Erin’s Isle lying second last in the league.

“We have an awful lot of respect for Erin’s Isle, their league position doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re one of the toughest teams out there. They always play a hard game, and they’ll be fighting just as much as us on the day,” said manager Harry Roberts.

On the missing list for Cuala are Paul Schutte, David Treacy and Oisin Gough, who are currently representing the Dublin senior hurlers, and Mark Schutte and Conor Gough, who are on duty for the Dublin Under-21s.

With the postponement option in place due to the absence of one-third of Cuala’s line-up, the Hyde Road side opted against it for the first of their closing two games against the second-placed Naomh Fionnbarra.

Coming into their last game against Erin’s Isle, Roberts decided to use the postponement option to maximise his team’s chances of promotion.

“To be honest, the game is just too important to risk anything. Everyone here at the club has decided it’s the best option for us. If we don’t grab a point at least the whole league challenge will have been in vain, and, after our performances, we deserve better than that,” said Roberts.

The inclusion of the intercounty hurlers in the final showdown with Erin’s Isle has been embraced by all the players, with none of the Cuala “league team” feeling displaced by their returns.

“All the lads are happy that we’ll be facing Erin’s Isle with a full team. We all want to be back up in AHL1 next year, and with a full-strength team, we have a really good chance.

“The whole team get on very well with each other, they’ve got great respect for one another and they have great confidence in their performances,” said Roberts. Nerves would be a factor for anyone in the situation that Cuala face, but Roberts joked about the anxiety surrounding the game.

“How do you print black eyes?” laughed the Cuala manager.

“We’ll go in full of confidence, the lads really want this, there’s no lack of motivation, even though we have a tough Erin’s Isle side to face, I’m sure we’ll come out with the result,” he said.

As featured in the Dun-Laoghaire Gazette