London-based Alan Cuddihy and his club of Ballyhale in Kilkenny were crowned Senior All-Ireland club champions when they came out on top in their St Patrick’s Day final against Kilmallock. He spoke to David Hennessy about his All-Ireland journey, living with the Kilburn Gaels lads and Henry Shefflin’s future.
He was the fourth member of his household to play in a Croke Park final this year. But while it was not Kilburn Gaels’ day in February, Alan Cuddihy and Ballyhale had their day on Mach 17 when they overcame Kilmallock by 1-18 to 1-6 to become champions of Ireland.
Alan Cuddihy lives in Ealing with Kilburn Gaels’s Luke Gaule, Barry Kiely and Mark O’Dwyer. Another resident of the house is Damien Brown who hurls with Clare champions Cratloe. All five earned county medals last year. It is a story that has interested many with the cameras coming to the lads’ home for a video feature for the AIB Toughest campaign.
Alan has told The Irish World previously about how tough it was travelling back for matches every weekend but he also said it would all be worth it. “It’s 100% worth it,” he says now.
“It was hard as well because I didn’t get paid for a lot of the days. That’s all part of it and I would do it all again if I could to get there.”
Asked if he’s any wiser about Henry Shefflin’s future, Alan says: “I actually approached him after the match and I said, ‘well what are you gonna do?’ He said he didn’t know. That’s his decision and whatever he picks is going to be the right one.”
Shefflin is injury free for the first time in years: “There’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t. The only thing is he has a young family, maybe he wants to spend more time with them but he’s injury free, he’s flying it, he’s doing well. If he does stay on, it won’t be a bad decision either.
“If he didn’t hurl for Kilkenny, he will still hurl for Ballyhale. I definitely know that. If he did leave Kilkenny, it would nearly be a plus for Ballyhale because he would be playing with us more regular.”
Alan was man of the match when Ballyhale Shamrocks won the club championship in 2010: “Maybe the first time I was there, I didn’t get to take it in as much but this is the second time I’ve been there with the club and won it so I definitely got to take it in more and it was definitely worth it.”
Previous experience of such occasions counted for a lot on the day: “That’s a huge thing because we know what to expect, we knew what was needed. They were new to it and that can have a huge bearing on settling into the game.”
Although the score-line may have made it look comfortable with Robbie Hanley’s late goal only serving as consolation, Kilmallock never made it easy for Ballyhale: “I think they had 18-20 wides and they had an early goal disallowed. If they had got half of those scores, game on so I think the score-line doesn’t really do them justice. They did make a few crazy decisions at time, shooting from distance but they were better than the score-line reflects.
“We always knew they had great forwards, forwards that could score from anywhere so the full back line especially, we had our tactics ready and we had our jobs to do and everyone did them and I’m delighted to see Joey Holden getting man of the match.
“I thought Colin Fennelly was outstanding and I think his goal was the starting point for us to kick on. TJ Reid was fantastic. All our county men, they stood up and that’s why they’re our stars. They’re our county men because they do it on big days like that.”
Alan has trained with Kilburn Gaels. Did he get a sense of the London community supporting him? “I did because it was the last chance to win one for someone in London and all the boys in the house were brilliant, they all text me before it and rang me so they were all supportive as well, everyone was brilliant.”