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Thursday 14 November 2019

Treacy points way as Cuala regain top ranking in capital

Cuala 1-18 St Brigid's 1-14, Dublin SHC 'A' final

CHAMPIONS: Cuala players and supporters celebrate their Dublin SHC ‘A’ final victory at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile
CHAMPIONS: Cuala players and supporters celebrate their Dublin SHC ‘A’ final victory at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

The odd sight of Con O'Callaghan retiring injured after just five minutes of yesterday's Dublin SHC 'A' final was about the only blemish on an otherwise cheerful day for Cuala's high-achieving hurlers.

We've seen O'Callaghan do most things over the past four remarkable years as the GAA's most prodigious dual player.

Limping out of a big match wasn't one of them.

Given he sustained the injury to his quad in the act of scoring a goal in the first scoring play of the match, it must have been tempting for Willie Maher to consign the outcome as collateral damage.

But then, Cuala's ambitions for the season stretch beyond yesterday's county title.

And their new manager, who had already guided the club to a county top-flight league title back in April, made no attempt to conceal his annoyance that referee Seán Stack issued no sanction to St Brigid's and Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan for his part in the incident.

Terrible

"It was a terrible tackle," Maher asserted after Cuala had claimed a fourth Dublin SHC title in five years in a match that was tighter and more tense than most had predicted.

"I think Con isn't a guy to lie down. He couldn't continue. So that was a testament to the badness of the injury."

The goal was trademark.

Seán Moran intercepted a long pass from Eoghan McKeigue in his own half and went long to O'Callaghan, who darted into a little patch of space to the right of Nolan's goal.

He feinted left, then turned sharply to his right and rounded Donnacha Ryan, who slipped.

Having taken a quick glance to his right and ascertained nothing better was on, he advanced on Nolan's goal and smashed a shot off his left.

The Dublin number one made himself big but his raised his left leg recklessly high after the shot had hit the net, catching O'Callaghan hard on his upper thigh.

"He had struck the ball. He was in mid-air. And he was taken out," said Maher, who disclosed that O'Callaghan had suffered "a very bad dead leg".

"Everyone else dug in then. And that was the beauty of today. We won as a team. And that was really satisfying."

Yesterday was very much a day for digging in, not a discipline to which Cuala have been particularly accustomed this year.

In their five previous Championship games, the 2017 and '18 All-Ireland champions' average winning margin was over 18 points.

They had scored and average of 32 points per game.

And when last the teams met, in the round-robin stage of the Championship, Cuala won by 19 points and St Brigid's finished with 13 men.

Clearly then, Brigid's had to try and dictate the shape of the match and to that end, they succeeded.

Nolan made a brilliant save from Mark Schutte after eight minutes that kept Johnny McGuirk's team from going six points down and from there, they forced the game into a frenzied battle, condensing space for Cuala's sweeter strikers and competing zealously against their attackers in the air.

In the Dublin SHC 'A' semi-final, Cuala scored 3-21 against St Vincent's and their only scoreable free came in the first minute of injury time.

Ferociously

Here, David Treacy scored 0-12, all from frees.

The game was curiously fractured - something that suited Brigid's more than it did Cuala.

But Brigid's competed ferociously, had an in-form freetaker of their own in Paul Winters (0-7 from eight frees) and despite having Kevin Callaghan sent off on a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident in the 53rd minute, got within a single point of the unbackable favourites with two minutes to play.

Their goal came in the 49th minute when Seán Brennan's stunning save from Cian O'Sullivan's shot rebounded high into the evening sky and then dropped right in front of Keith Mullally, who batted home.

But with the extra men, Cuala calmly worked the ball through Dublin senior Moran, who was outstanding, and generated the late scoring chances that put them into a Leinster club championship for which they had already been installed as favourites.

"Hurling at any time of year is great but hurling at this time of year is really, really good. It's really honest," Maher noted.

"You saw that from today. It was a really fantastic match. We were just delighted to come out the right side of it.

"I'm just really happy for the group. They trained really hard. Lads put a huge amount into this.

"There's a huge community behind this team, as you can see from the crowd there.

"It's great. It's a great feeling to win with your club. And I'm delighted for the guys there today."

Scorers - Cuala: D Treacy 0-12 (12f), Con O'Callaghan 1-0, S Moran 0-2, J Malone, D O'Connell, C Sheanon, N Kenny 0-1 each. St Brigid's: P Winters 0-7 (7f), K Mullally 1-1, J McGuirk 0-2, C O'Sullivan, D Plunkett, L Purtill, E Dunne (s-l) 0-1 each.

Cuala: S Brennan; D O'Floinn, Cian O'Callaghan, S Timlin; O Gough, P Schutte, S Moran; C Sheanon, S Treacy; J Malone, C Cronin, D O'Connell; D Treacy, M Schutte, Con O'Callaghan. Subs: N Kenny for Con O'Callaghan (8 inj), J Sheanon for O'Floinn (h-t), L Murphy for Kenny (61), N Waldron for Malone (63).

St Brigid's: A Nolan; M Kavanagh, D Ryan, E McKeigue; A Dunphy, D Plunkett, J O'Neill; K Mullally, C Doyle; C Kellett, E Dunne, P Winters; K Callaghan, C O'Sullivan, J McGuirk. Subs: L Purtell for McKeigue (23), J O'Connell for Kellett (44).

Ref: S Stack (Parnell's).

Attendance: 4,000 (approx).

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