Friday 19 January 2018

Cuala are red hot in winter

2-20 average aiding Dub cause

A linesman watches play as the winter sun sets during the AIB Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship quarter-final between Coolderry and Cuala in Tullamore
A linesman watches play as the winter sun sets during the AIB Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship quarter-final between Coolderry and Cuala in Tullamore

When substitute Nicky Kenny iced the Cuala cake deep into injury-time, it had zero significance on last Sunday's outcome - Coolderry were long since a beaten docket.

Yet there was a statistical positive to that late, late point in Tullamore. It brought Cuala's Leinster club quarter-final total to 1-23 - matching their average tally of 2-20 from the Dublin SHC knockout stages.

Even more noteworthy was the fact that they maintained this prolific level despite the change in weather/surface conditions.

Whereas the county final against St Jude's had been played on a Hallowe'en afternoon pilfered from mid-summer, Sunday heralded the true arrival of winter.

The morning monsoons may have dissipated by throw-in, but there was still a strong wind blowing ... and still Cuala cut loose on the scoreboard.


"Yeah, it didn't feel like that!" admitted their manager, Mattie Kenny. "Keep the scoreboard ticking, that's all you can do, and the lads are doing that." No one more so than David Treacy, whose free-taking has reached Shefflinesque levels.

Having secured safe passage through their Dublin SHC group, the Dalkey boys set about amassing huge tallies en route to a first county title in 21 years.

They blitzed Craobh Chiaráin for 4-16 in a Dublin quarter-final on October 7, Treacy hitting 1-5 (including a goaled penalty and two converted frees). His stats then soared to a massive 0-14 (12f), just over half of Cuala's 0-27 tally in their standout semi-final victory over Ballyboden St Enda's.

The Dublin marksman then had to settle for 'just' 0-7 (5f, 1 '65', 1 sideline cut) against St Jude's, his younger brother Seán hogging most of the county final headlines with a goal in either half as they ran up 3-14.

But once they hit the provincial road, last Sunday was all about the elder Treacy: he attempted 12 frees against Coolderry, and nailed the lot. His only wide was via a speculative sideline cut.

Thus, in four knockout matches over the course of a month, Cuala's No 13 has amassed 1-38 (1-33 coming from placed balls). Metronomic stuff.

"David Treacy was really good on the frees," acknowledged Kenny about Sunday's performance.

"And, like, every free was vital. At this time of the year scores are hard come by, so every time you get a free you've got to make them. It's your opportunity - you can clean the ball, put it down, there's nobody clipping at you."

The good thing about Cuala's provincial prospects, of course, is that they're anything but a one-man forward operation. Whereas Treacy flitted on and off the Dublin starting team last summer - ultimately ceding his place and free-taking role to Paul Ryan - Mark Schutte was very much the main man in attack and finished the year as the county's solitary All Star nominee.

He has carried that form into the club arena, highlights including his 0-6 from play against Ballyboden and 1-2 against Coolderry. Fellow Dub Colm Cronin was limited to just a point against the Offaly champions, but this followed earlier hauls of 2-0 against Craobh, 0-3 against 'Boden and 1-2 against Jude's.

It's 26 years since Cuala reached their only Leinster club final to date. That '89 decider ended in heavy defeat to Ballyhale Shamrocks, current All-Ireland champions … yet Ballyhale's failure to defend their Kilkenny crown has opened a window of opportunity for all Leinster survivors.

One step at a time, though: Cuala must first survive their stiffest test yet, at home to latest Kilkenny kingpins Clara. Hit 2-20 in Donnycarney next Sunday, and we'll know they mean business.

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