VINS TAKE THE SECOND CHANCE
St Vincent's 0-13 Cuala 1-7
St VINCENT'S produced an impressive second-half display when accounting for Cuala by three points in their Dublin U16 'A' Football Championship first round replay at Páirc Naomh Uinsionn last Thursday evening.
The hosts struggled in the opening half against a more physically imposing Cuala side but they showed sufficient composure after the break to eventually wear down their battling opponents and secure a quarter-final clash against near neighbours Na Fianna.
Their win was just reward for a greater attacking threat throughout with lively full-forward Cian O'Brien kicking four points from play, scores that ultimately proved the difference between the well-matched sides.
O'Brien received valuable support in the scoring stakes from Harry Brady while in contrast, Cuala were far too dependent on the free-taking excellence of Tom Magee with the towering midfielder kicking all bar one of his side's scores.
Far from failing to create chances, especially in the opening half, it was the visitors' inability to translate their plentiful possession into scores that undermined their chances with ten wides registered in the first-half in what were generally idyllic conditions for football.
After an impeccably observed minute's silence to mark the passing of the late Dave Billings, both sides struggled in the initial stages with the early passages punctuated by errors.
Gradually, the hosts began to exert a degree of control but some poor shot selection ensured they didn't open the scoring until the 12th minute, through a close-in free converted by Brady.
Cuala's response to this was admirable as Magee began to provide a solid platform in the aerial exchanges around the middle third and it wasn't long before the Dalkey outfit hit the lead through successive placed balls from their talisman.
As Vinnies looked bereft in dealing with Magee's prominence, Cuala took advantage with two further frees from Magee although the margin could well have been greater but for their collective malaise in front of goal.
As a consequence, the hosts were allowed to play their way back into contention with lively wing-back Seán Lambe adding some much-needed energy to their attacking play and they trimmed their arrears to a single point by the 24th minute after unanswered points by Mark O'Sullivan and Brady.
A cracking long-distance free by Magee inched Cuala two points clear but St Vincent's replied with the score of the half two minutes before the break as O'Brien kicked a superb left-foot point after an enterprising run from James O'Donnell.
Trailing by 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval, there was a huge improvement in Vinnies' forward play in the second-half and they regained their lead within two minutes after a brace of classy scores by the increasingly influential O'Brien.
However, Cuala responded admirably with the game's solitary goal in the 36th minute as Mark Treacy was in the right place at the right time to palm home from Eoghan Potts' dangerous ball across the goal.
That Cuala failed to build on that strike would have disappointed them as they ceded territory to their opponents as O'Donnell began to exert a strong influence on proceedings.
An O'Brien free halved the hosts' deficit two minutes later and a jinking run by Brady preceded an excellent score at the end of the third quarter as Vinnies restored parity.
Further points were added by Brady and O'Brien in the ensuing three minutes but Cuala gradually began to regain their belief with Magee once again on target with two frees to leave the tie delicately poised with eight minutes remaining.
The greater pace within the home ranks proved telling in the closing stages with Brady and O'Brien once again finding their range and a fine insurance score by substitute Kevin Morgan in injury time proved the final blow to Cuala's hopes.
Scorers - St Vincent's: C O'Brien 0-6 (4f), H Brady 0-5 (4f), M O'Sullivan, K Morgan 0-1 each. Cuala: T Magee 0-7 (7f), M Treacy 1-0.
St Vincent's: S McAuley; T McMorrow, N Sheehy, D Rooney; S Lambe, R O'Sullivan, J Weinmann; S Fradl, J O'Donnell; E O'Neill, E Ruddle, M O'Sullivan; H Brady, C O'Brien, R Dunne. Subs: E Davalis for Fradl (half-time), L Dunbrell for Dunne and J O'Meara for O'Sullivan (42), K Morgan for Rooney (60, BC).
Cuala: C Quinn; R McMahon, P Ó Cofaigh, G O'Brien; P Byrne, M Johnson, K Kirwan; D Ó Floinn, T Magee; E Kennedy, M Treacy, J Twomey; J Kennedy, E Potts, P Jackson. Subs: D Bailey for Jackson (half-time), R Sheanon for Kennedy (38), S Mahony for Twomey (46).
Mentors - St Vincent's: Stephen Loftus, Nathan Mullins, Sean L'Estrange. Cuala: John Twomey, Michael Jackson, Mick Kirwan.
Referee: Damian Burnett (Craobh Chiaráin)
Wides: St Vincent's 6 (4+2) Cuala 13 (10+3)
Conditions: A sunny but cold evening.
Player of the Game: Cian O'Brien (St Vincent's)