Lucan Sarsfields produced a dominant and thorough display as they comfortably accounted for 2013 winners Ballinteer St John's by 11 points in their Dublin Under 21 'A' Hurling Championship preliminary round encounter at a wind-swept Marley Park last Saturday afternoon.
The relative ease with which Sarsfields strolled through what looked on paper like an especially difficult assignment highlighted how well they performed on the day with their dominance in the aerial exchanges a key facet in their victory.
That Lucan only conceded one point from play was also instructive with Matthew McCaffrey once again producing a defensive master-class from centre-back, receiving excellent support throughout from Adrian Phelan, Seán Ryan, Philip Smith and John Bellew.
The attack spluttered at times, most noticeably in the first half as they failed to reflect their overall supremacy on the scoreboard but as the game opened up upon the restart, Sarsfields' class began to tell, giving a more accurate barometer of their control by the end.
For the Ballinteer men, it was a disappointing manner in which to relinquish their crown with the overall depth of their panel not matching that of their opponents.
"It was a great team performance in terrible conditions," was the assessment of Lucan manager Fintan Clandillon.
"There is definitely room for improvement in terms of our finishing but we are just delighted to get through to the next round.
"However, we are well aware that Cuala will present a massive challenge with loads of Dublin seniors, U21s and minors involved," added Clandillon.
Given the difficult conditions, it was of little surprise to see scores at a premium in the early stages with the generally impressive Chris Crummey hitting three consecutive wides before Sarsfields pounced for the game's opening score at the end of the first quarter.
There was a degree of fortune attached it as Ronan Smith's lengthy delivery eluded both Donal Gormley and Sean Smith, allowing Emmet Ó Conghaile to pounce to the net from close range.
That concession knocked the confidence from the home side, despite the positive contributions from half-back of Glenn Whelan and Danny McCarthy, and St John's fell further behind in the 21st minute as Crummey eventually found his range from a 40-metre free.
Despite Aodhán Clabby replying in kind for Ballinteer, there were few chances being created by the holders as Lucan comfortably repelled their sporadic periods of pressure.
If they were to enjoy genuine hopes of a second-half comeback, Ballinteer needed to resume in a dominant fashion but the opposite occurred as McCaffrey illuminated the increasingly dark afternoon with a brace of superb points from placed balls.
The contest was effectively settled as early as the 46th minute as Lucan pounced for their second goal with Crummey's well-timed pass giving Ó Conghaile sufficient time and space to fire a clinical finish past the horribly-exposed Smith in the home goal.
The Dublin football panellist added a classy point from play two minutes later with the score of the match arriving nine minutes from time as Paul Crummey made light of the tight angle to fire an impeccable shot between the posts to leave 10 points between the sides. Ballinteer's character could not be questioned as they drove towards the Lucan goal with increasing regularity but the difficult conditions mitigated against their attack with their focus on scoring goals playing into the hands of the superbly-organised Lucan rearguard.
Conor Moran and Niall Stagg worked tirelessly in the wing-forward positions and with Seán McClelland redeployed into a more defensive position, Lucan incrementally squeezed the life from the St John's challenge.
Ó Conghaile and Rob Aherne traded points in the closing stages with McCaffrey fittingly landing the final score in injury time to complete an accomplished display by Lucan.
Scorers - Lucan Sarsfields: Emmet Ó Conghaile 2-2, M McCaffrey 0-3 (3f), C Crummey (f), P Crummey 0-1 each. Ballinteer St John's: A Clabby (f), R Aherne 0-1 each.
Lucan Sarsfields: D O'Neill; S Ryan, A Phelan, O McCabe; P Smith, M McCaffrey, J Bellew; R Smith, S McClelland; C Moran, C Crummey, N Stagg; P Crummey, Emmett Ó Conghaile, Eoghan Ó Conghaile. Subs: R Ennis for McCabe (12), P Rigney for Eoghan Ó Conghaile (56), S Donohue for P Crummey (60).
Ballinteer St John's: S Smith; C Hanlon, D Gormley, A Dolan; P Denmeade, G Whelan, D McCarthy; E Coffey, S Corcoran; C Dolan, D Morrissey, A Clabby; C Fenton, J Aherne, C Murphy. Subs: I MacGabhann for Fenton (34), R Aherne for J Aherne (41), P O'Reilly for Murphy (44).
Mentors - Lucan Sarsfields: Fintan Clandillon, Cronan Dooley, Paul Stapleton, Aidan Glover. Ballinteer St John's: Seanie Lane, Brian Sutton, PJ Dolan, Dara Taaffe,
Referee: Mick O'Flaherty (St Mark's)
Wides - Lucan Sarsfields: 8 (5+3); Ballinteer St John's: 4 (2+2).
Conditions: A damp and windy afternoon.
Player of the Game: Matthew McCaffrey (Lucan Sarsfields).