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Friday 9 December 2016

Cuala's perfect start

Cuala 3-11 St Margaret's 2-6

Cuala team photograph
Cuala team photograph
St Margaret's team photograph

Cuala delivered a decisive first-half showing in getting the better of St Margaret's by eight points in their entertaining Dublin Intermediate Football Championship first round encounter at O'Toole Park last Saturday afternoon.

That the victory was deserved could not be argued but they were fortunate on occasions with their crossbar rattled twice during the second half when the contest was still in the melting pot.

The winners were ultimately indebted to full-forward Donal Lehman for two predatory finishes in the first period that handed them a sizeable 2-6 to 1-2 interval advantage.

On a mercifully dry day in Kimmage, with both sides committing players to attack, the contest developed into an enjoyable, open affair.

Cuala opened up brightly thanks to an excellent point in the 1st minute by wing-forward Gavin Hartnett.

St Margaret's restoring parity soon after as a Brian Shanahan point attempt dropped short but managed to deceive Darragh O'Reilly in the Cuala goal as it bounced over the crossbar.

Cuala were at their slickest in the dearly stages as they enjoyed some fine passages of play, linking defence into attack intelligently as wing-back Luke Tracey in particular looked to offer an option at all times.

They were rewarded for their enterprise, with the tireless Cillian Sheanon regaining Cuala's lead in the thirrd minute before Lehman added a point to double his side's lead.

A goal looked imminent at this stage, with Rory Doyle having already come close, and it duly arrived in the sixth minute as Lehman was on hand to poke home from close range after a typically adventurous sortie by Tracey.

Already facing an early five-point deficit, it was imperative that Maggies got a foothold in the tie and they managed to do just that three minutes later.

Personified

Shanahan was calmness personified as he clipped a precise finish high into O'Reilly's net after excellent approach play by James Hempensall.

Crucially, though, the North County outfit were unable to build on this goal as they struggled at times in midfield and their arrears increased to three points when the lively Dan Keating converted a 13th-minute free.

Worse was to follow six minutes later as Lehman was first to react as a Hartnett attempt fell short with the full-forward flicking the ball past a stranded David O'Connor.

Despite leading by six points, Cuala had to remain vigilant in defence with O'Reilly producing a superb save to repel a Shanahan attempt with Hempensall firing the rebound wide when well placed.

The half concluded with some quality scores as Keating and Niall O'Callaghan highlighted their quality to push Cuala seven points clear at half-time.

The interval appeared to stall any momentum that Cuala had enjoyed, as they produced an indifferent resumption, and they were fortunate in the 37th minute as Hempensall's crashing shot beat O'Reilly, but cannoned to safety off the crossbar.

A Scott Shier point was the least St Margaret's deserved for a decent spell of pressure as they forced a number of turnovers from a stuttering Cuala team.

However, with youth on their side and a stronger bench too, Cuala managed to regain a degree of authority thanks to a point from captain Ronan Sweeney as the woodwork once again denied St Margaret's at the end of the third quarter with Conor Hickey the unfortunate player on the second occasion.

Cuala took advantage of this let-off through points by Andy Power and substitute Lúc Ó Giolláin as points at the opposite end from Hickey, Shanahan and Nathan Dolan never looking likely to launch a comeback.

Impressed

Derick Tansey impressed upon his introduction with two fine points as the contest culminated in two bizarre goals late-on.

Sheanon was the beneficiary in the 60th minute of some defensive hesitancy as his free dropped untouched into O'Connor's net, with an equally scrappy goal from Shier at the death offering a tiny element of consolation to St Margaret's.

Scorers - Cuala: D Lehman 2-1, C Sheanon 1-1 (1-0f), D Keating (1f), D Tansey 0-2 each, G Hartnett, A Power, R Sweeney, N O'Callaghan, L Ó Giolláin 0-1 each. St Margaret's: B Shanahan 1-2 (0-1f), S Shier 1-1, N Dolan, M Thomas, C Hickey 0-1 each.

Cuala: D O'Reilly; D Sheerin, C Lawlor, D Tracey; R Doyle, R Murdock, L Tracey; M Kiernan, A Power; G Hartnett, R Sweeney, C Sheanon; D Keating, D Lehman, N O'Callaghan. Subs: C McKenna for Murdock (36), L Ó Giolláin for Keating and C Ó Giolláin for Hartnett (48), D Tansey for Lehman (52), E Kelly for Sheerin (53, Black Card), D Lane for Kiernan (56).

St Margaret's: D O'Connor; T Strich, P Fox, R Rooney; A Cregan, J Sutton, N Dolan; S Shier, P McCarthy; D Newman, C Hickey, M Thomas; C Sutton, B Shanahan, J Hempensall. Subs: D Martin for Strich (36), S Tynan for McCarthy (38), S Sutton for Dolan (51).

Mentors - Cuala: Enda McGowan, Ciaran Irwin, John Sheanon, Richie O'Reilly, Paul Linnane. St Margaret's: Ivan Sutton, Damien Clarke, Sean Kelly.

Referee: Senan Finucane (Templeogue Synge Street)

Wides: Cuala 7 (3+4) St Margaret's 10 (5+5)

Conditions: A dry afternoon with slight breeze towards Crumlin End.

Player of the Game: Luke Tracey (Cuala)

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