Cuala show mettle to deny Saints
Dublin SHC Group 3 Cuala 1-14 St Brigid's 1-7
Cuala gave another reminder of their character and durability as they controlled matters after the break to register a deserved seven-point win over St Brigid's at Parnell Park on Saturday evening.
With the All-Ireland champions trailing by a point at half-time, Cuala assumed complete control in the second half with their defensive excellence ensuring the St Brigid's attack was nullified the longer the contest evolved.
Cian O'Callaghan was masterful throughout, making light of the treacherous conditions with as accomplished and secure a performance as he has given at full-back.
Of course, it is the consistency of performance that has been the hallmark of Cuala under Mattie Kenny's successful reign and the confidence and faith in their own abilities shone like a beacon on an otherwise dreary evening.
Other teams may well have panicked if they had failed to score inside the opening quarter and that's the scenario that Cuala found themselves in after a sluggish start, made all the worse after a heavy shower that coincided with the throw-in.
By then, their opponents had opened the scoring through an excellent individual effort from the impressive Donnacha Ryan in the ninth minute, while Johnny McGuirk doubled that advantage with a score from midfield seven minutes later.
In truth, Brigid's could and should have been further clear but for some poor wides recorded in the opening stages. At the opposite end, David Treacy proved errant with three presentable opportunities from placed balls.
Treacy did eventually find his range with his side's first score in the 17th minute and parity was restored a minute later thanks to a typically stylish score by Darragh O'Connell.
The holders looked to be taking a firm grasp on the game as Treacy fired over two frees in quick succession but in the 28th minute, Ryan left the Cuala defence for dead with his well-timed pass allowing Derry Murphy sufficient space to fire to the net past a helpless Sean Brennan.
The half finished with Treacy and McGuirk trading frees as the Blanchardstown side enjoyed a narrow 1-3 to 0-5 interval advantage.
With the weather conditions improving by the break, Cuala's fortunes also took a turn for the b etter upon the resumption with Treacy landing a '65' to level matters in the 32nd minute.
McGuirk replied for Brigid's soon after to restore his team's slight advantage but the momentum of the tie turned dramatically in the 34th minute as Cuala highlighted their depth in playing resources.
Jake Malone's sideline ball appeared relatively innocuous but substitute Brian Fitzgerald showed no little strength and skill to brush off several Brigid's challenges before firing low past Alan Nolan from an acute angle.
Cuala scented blood and added to their lead through a Treacy free and a cracking point from the tireless Colm Cronin.
Their opponents began to get on the wrong side of referee Sean Stack as their frees conceded and bookings count began to climb in a hurry.
Treacy and Moran punished their ill-discipline while a fine Con O'Callaghan point in the 50th minute left seven points between the sides.
An uphill task grew even steeper for St Brigid's in the 51st minute when centre-back Daire Plunkett received a second booking inside five minutes, effectively ending any slight hopes of a comeback in the process.
Treacy added two further frees by the close with Ryan and McGuirk chipping in with consolation scores for a Brigid's team that will take some positives but also some harsh lessons from Saturday evening into their crucial clash against Ballyboden St Enda's on Thursday week.