Underdog tag to suit Chiaráins
A depleted double-chasing Cuala are vulnerable to crash at Craobh's feet
CUALA will be hoping that the long wait will have been worth it when they tonight attempt to add the Dublin U21 'A' hurling title to the football equivalent which they captured last December at O'Toole Park.
Cuala and Craobh Chiaráin return to the same venue to finally get the opportunity to contest the county championship U21 final of 2009 with a cracking encounter expected.
Following appeals, counter-appeals and objections, Chiaráin were eventually awarded a final spot after Na Fianna, who won the rescheduled semi-final by six points, were adjudged to have used a suspended player.
Thankfully, the dust has settled on this turn of events and both sides will not be lacking in motivation as they seek to follow in the footsteps of Lucan Sarsfields, who claimed the 2008 crown in thrilling circumstances.
Cuala, looking to achieve the football and hurling double, will aim to repeat the manner of their gutsy semi-final victory over Ballyboden St Enda's in late January which showed the Dalkey side at its skilful and battling best.
John Sheanon gave an inspirational performance from centre-back, especially in the second-half, as he marshalled his fellow defenders to great effect, making countless interceptions and delivering driving clearances as Boden struggled in vain to crack the Cuala rearguard.
He received great defensive support from Conor Gough and Rory Cole, and in the corners both Packie Holden and Colm O'Farrell played with huge discipline in nullifying the threat of their direct opponents.
Cuala's midfield offers a nice mix of strength and finesse through the talents of Paul Schutte and Scott O'Brien, and up front, Luke Keating, Dublin senior football panellist Mick Fitzsimons, Shane Murphy and Mark Schutte have all impressed in the campaign to date.
However, question marks surround the availability of talismanic forward David Treacy, who has been struggling with a hamstring complaint and his ability to lead the line and pitch in with vital scores has been instrumental in Cuala's progression to the final.
Craobh Chiaráin, managed by Derek Finn, will have a full complement available to them, with 10 of the panel having come through last Wednesday's comfortable SHC 'A' victory over St Jude's without any ill effects.
In addition, inspirational half-back and intercounty U21 Darren Kelly is returning to full fitness and is expected to take his place in the starting line-up alongside his cousins James Ryan and Robbie Mahon as well as his Dublin U21 team-mate Gary Kelly.
Kevin Warren, in the form of his life at the moment, will cause headaches all evening for the Cuala defence with his pace and younger brother Gary Warren has come to the fore of late with a string of accomplished displays from corner-back.
Craobh will relish the perceived tag of underdogs and given Treacy's injury and concerns over the fitness of Paul Schutte, Simon Timlin and Mark Schutte, the momentum seems to be loaded in favour of the Donnycarney men sufficiently to see them prevail by a couple of points, with extra-time a distinct possibility.
VERDICT: Craobh Chiaráin