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Clinical Cuala cruise their way into semi-final

Dublin SHC 'A' quarter-final: Cuala 1-26 St Brigid's 2-14

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Cuala’s Jake Malone gets in his strike as St Brigid’s Ciarán Kellett closes in

Cuala’s Jake Malone gets in his strike as St Brigid’s Ciarán Kellett closes in

SPORTSFILE

Cuala’s Jake Malone gets in his strike as St Brigid’s Ciarán Kellett closes in

Cuala lose so infrequently these days, there's a reflex inclination to interpret defeat as some symptom of terminal decline.

So it was when they were beaten by Na Fianna in their concluding group match a couple of weeks back.

Yesterday in Parnell Park, they demonstrated forcibly that rumours of their demise had been greatly exaggerated.

You don't win back-to-back All-Ireland club SHC titles without being able to turn a few tricks.

"It's never as bad as it appears when you lose and it's never as good as it appears when you win," reflected manager Willie Maher, after a nine-point victory over Brigid's in Parnell Park, a victory that pits them against Lucan Sarsfields - surprise winners over Kilmacud Crokes yesterday - in the last four.

"We took stock after Na Fianna, worked on a few bits and pieces that came off today.

"There are things we're not happy with today. So that's the nature of self-improvement and trying to get better. We're delighted to win."

Arguments

They did so with a clinical disposition, both on the pitch and in their every collective movement.

In an eerily empty Parnell Park yesterday, Cuala simply ignored the sterility of the setting and generated championship-level energy from the moment they arrived.

Even the Cuala warm-up was done at a pace and noise level of a bunch of players who weren't going to be caught out twice in the same competition.

"That was very pleasing," Maher admitted. "We're just delighted to win. Quarter-finals are there to be won. Knockout hurling brings the best out of these guys, so we're delighted to win."

Truth be told, you didn't have to crane your ear too far to hear arguments for an upset yesterday.

Brigid's kept Cuala to within four points in last year's county final. The did so at a time when Maher's team were obliterating all before them.

If the Na Fianna loss bolstered the argument, the sight of Con O'Callaghan standing on the sideline while the rest of the Cuala players conducted their highly-energetic warm-up gave it real credence.

And then Cuala won the toss and racked up 19 first half points.

"Yeah, we went with the wind," confirmed Maher. "We went offensively to see if we could attack as much as we could and we were happy.

"The scores were coming from everywhere, which was great. But there was periods there in the third quarter when we only got two points.

"So there's plenty to work on. It will be very interesting to see where we go from here."

Those 19 Cuala points came from just 22 shots on goal.

David Treacy was the chief contributor and finished with 0-14 (0-10f). But Cuala's movement during that period was matched only by their finishing.

From long-range, they were impeccable.

Even without Con O'Callaghan, they looked like a side with the potency to score from anywhere on the pitch.

Two of the younger players; Diarmuid ó Floinn and Liam Murphy were among the most effective during that time, constantly moving and creating space for those around them.

In a stylistic variation from their All-Ireland club winning formula, Seán Treacy played a deep-lying midfielder/sweeper while Seán Moran posed more of a threat going forward.

It worked a treat.

And as the half wore on, the idea that Brigid's would mirror Cuala's scoring rate when they switched ends became less and less plausible.

They trailed by 0-19 to 0-8 at half-time and only briefly, after Cian O'Sullivan's goal two minutes into the second half, did the game simmer with any sort of tension.

O'Sullivan was easily Brigid's best player yesterday, scoring 1-3 from play in a haul of 1-9. But the game was done and dusted in the 49th minute.

ó Floinn took a flat hand pass from Mark Schutte and shipped an almighty shoulder in the process, but stayed on his feet and managed to gather his bearings to arrow a shot into the corner of Alan Nolan's net.

At 1-22 to 1-10, Brigid's didn't have anything like the ammunition to shoot Cuala down despite a late consolation goal by sub Ruairí Convery.

It's Lucan next for Maher's team and a crack at making a fifth county final in six years.

SCORERS - Cuala: D Treacy 0-14 (10f), D O Floinn 1-1, L Murphy 0-3 (1f) N Carty, M Schutte, 0-2 each, D O'Connell, J Malone, S Moran, C Cronin 0-1 each. St Brigid's: C O'Sullivan 1-9 (0-5f, 0-1 '65'), R Convery 1-0, P Winters, C Kellett 0-2 each, D Breslin 0-1.

CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, C O'Callaghan, M Conroy; J Sheanon, D O'Connell, J Malone; S Moran, N Carty; S Treacy, D Treacy, C Cronin; D O Floinn, M Schutte, L Murphy. Subs: E Murphy for Carty (39), C Sheanon for Cronin (50), S Timlin for Conroy (53), K Kirwan for J Sheanon (56), N Kenny for D Treacy (58)

ST. BRIGID'S: A Nolan; C Doyle, D Ryan, J O'Neill; A Dunphy, D Plunkett, M Kavanagh; L Purtill, K Mullaly; C Kellett, E Dunne, K Callaghan; P Winters, C O'Brien, C O'Sullivan. Subs: D Breslin for Callaghan (22), E McKeigue for Mullaly (29), R Convery for O'Brien (52), C Burke for Kellett (55)

REF: D Aston (Naomh Mearnóg)