An Interview with Cardiff Fire Director of Hockey and Head Coach Mark Cuddihy.

We are delighted that Mark Cuddihy was able to take time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for Y Ddraig for all Cardiff based Ice Hockey fans.

We asked Mark the following questions: –

1. How are you finding the step up in standard now that you are playing in NIHL1?

Answer: – Its very tough, but we knew it would be. Effectively we have stepped up two leagues with the demise of the EPL. It’s now the second tier of hockey in the UK and fully professional. It’s nothing like the old NIHL 1 as I think we’d have competed fine in that league.

2. Many of your players were part of the back to back NIHL 2 league wins, are they finding it difficult coping with not being able to grab victories most weeks?

Answer: – A lot of my players have played at higher levels, for some, this is the highest level they have played. A few have adapted right away and some of them are struggling a little. As coaches, we are there for them to help them make the required standard. I don’t think all of them will, as that’s unrealistic, but most will adapt and grow with this level.

3. It’s been a difficult start for you with several injuries to key players, how do you see the season progressing and what would signify a successful first season in this league?

Answer: -The start to this season in terms of injuries has been the most difficult I’ve experienced in 11 years of coaching senior hockey. We have been so unlucky. But we can’t moan about it, we have to get on with it and take the positives. The positives are that players that would normally not play as many minutes as they have been are getting thrown in at the deep end and playing key moments for us.

They will learn from that and it will accelerate their learning at this level. I think you can see from last Sundays game when we have a full line up we can compete with teams, we may not always win but the games are close, as we grow more and more we will start to win games. We’ve gone two years losing only 1 league game. That was boring and I’d much rather be where we are now than where we were. This season is all about building up the club and the players.

4. Are you happy with the blend of experience and youth that you have at your

Answer: – Obviously I’d like some more experience, we tried to sign a large number of players but we just didn’t have the budget to do so. But the experience we have in the room is vast, a lot of players have been there and done it and bring a calmness. The younger players are fantastic to work with and bring so much energy to our room and on the ice.

5. How difficult was it going out and assembling your team to compete in this league and were there frustrations with players that you were hopeful of signing that didn’t come to fruition?

Answer: – Really frustrating but we have to accept that for some of these guys it’s their livelihood. We aren’t there yet, but it will come.

6. You have recently been able to acquire the services of Luke Piggott on a part-time
contract from the Cardiff Devils. Was Luke a player that you were hopeful of signing a full-time contract to start the season.?

Answer: – Luke and I are good friends and we spoke a lot through the summer. Had Luke not been offered a deal with the Devils he would have signed for Cardiff Fire 100%, but he couldn’t turn down the offer the be involved in the coaching set up for the Devils whilst still playing some part on the ice. It’s the perfect option for him.

7. I like many others were hoping that when Chris Jones was released by the
Devils, he would become a Cardiff Fire player. Was this ever likely?

Answer: – It was more than likely; Chris Jones had agreed to join Fire. We were holding off as Elite League teams were still showing an interest in him as that cooled we agreed to a deal for him to join us. Swindon came in with an offer at the eleventh hour and he decided that Swindon was the better option for him. For CJ hockey is his only job so he had to go with the money.

8. I witnessed some very dubious officiating at last Sunday’s home game with
the Phantoms. How frustrating is it being on the receiving end of such calls? Particularly when you were already short benched. (Since asking this question
the Fire have also played Bracknell Bees last Sunday)

Answer: – It’s frustrating, but we have to get on with it. I don’t think they do it on purpose, it’s just mistakes. I think it will get better as the league are putting a lot into refs at the moment. I think the standard was way worse against the Bees last Sunday and we will be going through video for that game and sending it in. Not to get anyone in trouble but just to help that particular ref improve.

9. How sustainable do you think it will be for Cardiff Fire to keep running the two team set up?

Answer: – It has to be sustainable because we need the second team as a farm team for Fire 1. We have a lot of youngsters in that team and some of them have chosen to play senior hockey over juniors. If you look at all the great British players playing today (and before then), they all made that move at 16. They have to or they just simply won’t make it. Junior hockey in the UK isn’t good enough to develop players properly and the good players need to move into senior hockey right away or they stand no chance.

10. Finally, will there be Cardiff Fire merchandise available for fans to purchase
this season?

Answer: – There will, our expenses to start the season have been off the chart so we need to take stock and settle down a bit. Then we can start doing the other things like merchandise and replicas jerseys. We have a stock of printed pucks that will be there for the next game. They are really cool with the Fire logo printed on one side.

Picture Credit :

Thanks again to Mark for doing this interview. It has been my pleasure to get an insight into the trials and tribulations of being an Ice Hockey head coach.

I am hoping to be able to carry out some similar interviews/player profiles with current Cardiff Fire players in recent weeks.

Good luck to Mark and Cardiff Fire with the rest of the season.

Julian Blackburn