Cuala secure historic All-Ireland crown with emphatic win over Ballyea
Cuala 2-19 Ballyea 1-10
Cuala have been were crowned AIB All-Ireland club hurling champions in Croke Park after an emphatic 12-point win over Ballyea.
They become the first Dublin club to secure the biggest prize in club hurling and indeed, they are the first Dublin hurling team to win an All-Ireland championship crown since the minors triumphed in 1965.
While Cuala justified their tag of favourites, this was another disappointing club decider. It was the eighth final in the last ten years which ultimately turned into a rout.
Ballyea failed miserably to bring their A game to the proceedings with former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly being held scoreless by the excellent John Sheanon.
Everybody associated with hurling in the capital city will be hoping that this success leads to the Dublin inter county team ultimately making a breakthrough in the All-Ireland series.
As is often the case on All-Ireland club final day, even the most experienced players were beset to nervous tension – particularly in the opening quarter which featured just three scores – and one from play.
Given that the Ballyea puck outs were scarcely reaching the half way line, this suggested that Cuala had a significant wind advantage and ultimately they made this count in the second quarter beginning with a Colm Cronin goal after 15 minutes.
The Ballyea defence made the classic mistake by paying too much attention to Cuala's key forward Con O'Callaghan. Three of them challenged him for a dropping ball from John Sheanon. The sliothar broke to the unmarked Colm Cronin who raced through unchallenged and blasted it to the net.
David Treacy punished Ballyea's indiscipline in defence as the Clare champions and in particular their star performer Tony Kelly failed to shine.
He was only on the ball four times in the first half – but much of the credit was due to the performance of his marker Sheanon, who also scored one of Cuala's seven first-half points.
Even though Cuala's teenage star forward O'Callaghan was also only on the ball four times in the first period – he contributed two points from play, was involved in creating the goal and was fouled for Cuala's first free.
So Cuala deservingly led by six points at the break (1-7; 0-4).
There was an explosive start to the second half as Cuala had claims for a penalty denied; Ballyea counter-attacked and Pearse Lillis had a great chance of a goal. But having ignored his colleague Damien Burke who was loose inside Lillis mishit his shot and an already diving Sean Brennan swooped away the effort.
The rest of the third quarter largely settled into a shoot-out from placed balls from David Treacy and his Ballyea counterpart Niall Deasy but the Munster title holders never got closer than six points.
But throughout the campaign the Munster title holders have always left it late to launch their bid for victory and when Deasy hit the net after a deft pass from Lillis with nine minutes left to go to cut the deficit to four points, we thought we might have had a game.
Instead Cuala took complete control hitting an unanswered 1-5. The goal came from midfielder Jake Malone who was set up by Cian O'Callaghan, who had a significant influence on the outcome.
Kerry native Darragh O'Connell – who was named TG4 Man of the Match – hit a brace of points while substitute Colum Sheanon adding another two as the Ballyea challenge withered completely.
A day to remember for the Cuala Ultras! There won't be a book read or a film script written in Dalkey for at least a week.
Ballyea: K Sheehan; B Carrig, J Browne, J Neylon; P Flanagan, G O'Connell, J Murphy (0-1); T Kelly, S Lineen; N Deasy (1-6, 6f) P Connolly, C Doohan; P Lillis (0-2) G Brennan (0-1) , D Burke. Subs: M O'Leary for Connolly 37m; D Egan for Burke 39m; B Murphy for Neylon 56m; M Coughlan for Lineen
Cuala: S Brennan; P Schutte, Cian O'Callaghan, S Timlin; O Gough; S Moran, J Malone (1-0); J Sheanon (0-1); D O'Connell (0-3); D Treacy (0-9, 8f) C Cronin (1-1), S Treacy, C Waldron, Con O'Callaghan (0-2), M Schutte (0-1. Subs: C Sheanon (0-2) for Waldron 47m; R Tierney for Timlin 61m; N Kenny for Cronin 63m.
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)