Hard work for John's
Ballinteer St John's 0-16 Cuala 1-11
Ballinteer St John's progressed to the last four of the Dublin Under-21 'A' Hurling Championship following their deserved two-point victory over Cuala on the all-weather surface at the Ballinteer Community School on Saturday afternoon.
In truth, the margin of victory should have been wider as the hosts dominated for the large part but failed to take advantage of a number of presentable opportunities that came their way over the 60 plus minutes.
Their hesitation in front of goal and poor shot selection allowed a disappointing Cuala side to remain in contention but despite an excellent goal from Ódhran Mac Gearailt in the closing stages, the visitors lacked a constant and sufficient scoring threat to unduly trouble their opponents.
Credit, of course, must go to a strong Ballinteer defence in limiting Cuala's options in attack with both full-back Stephen Mulvaney and centre-back Eoghan Fitzpatrick thriving in the aerial exchanges.
Iain Ó hEithir was another to shine for the hosts, becoming more influential when switched to centrefield in the final quarter and his excellent point with ten minutes remaining came at a vital time as St John's struggled to turn their plentiful possession into scores.
The initial fare was understandably scrappy although the visitors managed to get their noses in front thanks to a fine score from Emmet Murphy in the opening minute.
Barry Mannion levelled matters soon after and Ballinteer edged in front by the fourth minute, following the first of two frees by Tom Aherne.
Aherne, who unfortunately had to be replaced in the 12th minute after suffering a knee injury, began to influence matters with some intelligent runs from midfield but the two goal chances that he created for himself were spurned as he fired too close to Cuala goalkeeper Cormac Spain on both occasions.
Cuala availed of those let-offs to draw level through an Emmet Murphy free in the seventh minute and the teams traded points within 60 seconds with Liam Murphy's classy effort cancelled out an Aherne free.
The visitors began to lose their way somewhat from that point, despite a bright start from wing-back Daire O'Callaghan, and they endured 17 scoreless minutes, albeit playing into the breeze.
Fitzpatrick was securing plenty of possession in front of his full-back line as St John's moved three points clear by the 17th minute following two Ciarán Rafter frees and an Eoin Ó Ceannabháin effort.
That momentum was maintained as Rafter and Ó Ceannabháin added to their personal tallies before Liam Murphy finally ended Cuala's scoring drought when converting a straightforward free in the 25th minute.
Spain was much the busier of the two goalkeepers and coped well with a Mannion attempt that was arrowing towards goal but St John's were rewarded for their dominance thanks to a trio of unanswered scores from the influential Rafter.
The visitors managed one final move of promise in the closing stages of the half as Cathal Ó Floinn split the posts to trim his side's deficit to seven points (0-12 to 0-5) by the interval.
The contest resumed with Rafter and Liam Murphy trading frees and the tit-for-tat nature was maintained as Eoin Ronyane of Ballinteer and Cuala's Kevin Kirwan popped over cracking points.
The hosts remained a threat on the counter-attack but struck some frustrating wides while their opponents also proved wasteful, most noticeably in the 55th minute as Liam Murphy drove his penalty wide of Matthew Tully's left-hand upright following a foul on Mac Gearailt.
Mac Gearailt's superb rising finish past the helpless Tully two minutes later offered renewed optimism to the visitors but despite enjoying a monopoly on possession for the final few minutes, they only managed two points from play by Liam Murphy and substitute Callum Jones as St John's held on for a well-merited victory.
Scorers - Ballinteer St John's: C Rafter 0-8 (6f, 1 65), T Aherne (2f), E Ó Ceannabháin 0-2 each, E Ronayne, B Mannion, I Ó hEithir, C Barry 0-1 each. Cuala: L Murphy 0-5 (3f), Ó Mac Gearailt 1-0, E Murphy (1f) 0-2, K Kirwan, T Lane (f), C Ó Floinn, C Jones 0-1 each.
Ballinteer St John's: M Tully; C Fitzpatrick, S Mulvaney, P Watchorn; B Smith, E Fitzpatrick, I Ó hEithir; C Rafter, T Aherne; J Sweeney, D Carey, E Ó Ceannabháin; E Ronayne, B Mannion, C Barry. Subs: R Kennedy for Aherne (12), J Kenneally for Ronayne (43), C Shelley for Ó Ceannabháin (56).
Cuala: C Spain; D Maas, D Drummond, A Maloney; F Ó Tiarnaigh, J O'Reilly, D O'Callaghan; L Murphy, B Cornella; K Kirwan, E Murphy, C Scanlan; T Lane, Ó Mac Gearailt, R Sheanon. Subs: C Ó Floinn for Murphy (21), A Sheerin for Sheanon (38), C Jones for Scanlan (43).
Mentors - Ballinteer St John's: Glenn Whelan, Seanie Lane, Ronan Collins, Eoin Coffey. Cuala: Finbarr Murphy, Aonghus Maloney.
Referee: Mark Ryan (St Patrick's Palmerstown)
Wides: Ballinteer St John's 14 (9+5) Cuala 8 (3+5)
Conditions: Cold but dry.
Player of the Game: Eoghan Fitzpatrick (Ballinteer St John's)