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Cuala captain Oisín Gough lifts the New Ireland cup after the Dublin Senior Hurling Final at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Cuala captain Oisín Gough lifts the New Ireland cup after the Dublin Senior Hurling Final at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Cuala captain Oisín Gough lifts the New Ireland cup after the Dublin Senior Hurling Final at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Cuala have far too much talent just now not to build on last year's drought-ending Dublin SHC success but there were moments on Saturday afternoon when they flirted with not winning back-to-back titles.

Perhaps, though, it was fitting that they were forced to show their full array of talents to figure this one out.

To confirm their status as great Dublin champions, rather than just ordinary winners, they had to occupy the outer extremities of their abilities.

There were moments in the first half of their 1-15 to 0-15 victory over Kilmacud Crokes when Cuala looked so well-drilled, so comfortable, just so damn good.

Like the calm, calculated way their sharpest forward, Colm Cronin, ambled sideways to open up the angle at the Kilmacud Crokes goal into which he shot Cuala's first score and the game's only goal.

Or Mark Schutte's 17th-minute point.

Cian Waldon fetches Seán Brennan's puck-out and feeds backwards to Jake Malone, who immediately knows the patch of grass into which Schutte wants the sliotar delivered.

With that pass, that room and that one-on-one equation, Schutte will score almost every time.

Or Nicky Kenny's 25th minute score, the one that made it 1-7 to 0-1 and suggested Cuala might breeze to this year's title in the manner of Ballyboden St Enda's for much of the early part of this decade.

Brennan takes down a dropping ball at peak jump under pressure from two Kilmacud Crokes forwards.

He swiftly passes out to Paul Schutte who drives a ball to Kenny's wing, wherein he gathers, twits and slots from 30 yards.

This is peak Cuala. n sync, deadly accurate and dominant.

"We started very well," reflected their manager, Mattie Kenny afterwards.

"We said we wanted to get off to a good start. And the lads came out of the blocks early.

"We worked up a bit of a lead. And yeah, it was a good first 20 minutes for us."

Even more impressively was how they finished.

Under pressure, lacking momentum, being beaten to possession, Cuala still tapped into that reservoir of excellence to turn a late two-point deficit into a three-point win.

As for the bit in between…

"We like a physical battle," Kenny noted.

"But we were hurling so well, we were nearly concentrating too much on the hurling."

Complicit

Hustle isn't something that appears on the sheets of statisticians in hurling but that is precisely the thing Kilmacud Crokes brought to the second half on Saturday that they lacked in the first.

Previously, they had been almost complicit in Cuala's brilliance.

Granted, missing frees from inside the opposition's '45 don't help either, but they merely compounded the malaise, rather than causing it.

"They upped the tackle-rate a serious amount in the second-half - very, very fairly," Kenny observed.

"But it took us 10 or 15 minutes to settle down and go man-to-man and pick them back up a bit.

"But yeah, there was a period there after half-time when they were getting to all the breaks before us. They really came right back in that game."

Crokes scored just four points in that first-half, all from Oisín O'Rorke and only one from play and really, Cuala should have led by more than just the 1-8 to 0-4 they took in with them to the break.

Crokes re-emerged first and mostly unrecognisible.

Their first-half meekness was replaced by a huge level of physicality.

It scrambled Cuala's ability to think on their feet, tampered with their instinct to pick out those passes or create those scores they looked so graceful scoring in the first half.

In the first 19 minutes of that second-half, Crokes scored eight points.

The run was ended by a monster David Treacy free which, as it went, was Cuala's first shot at the Crokes posts since before the break.

"I suppose they showed great character," Kenny admitted.

"They went two up from having been seven or eight down. So they had the momentum."

At the back, Ronan Walsh, Jack Doughan and Cian MacGabhann broke everything that came to them.

Burden

The likes of Fergal Whitely and Seánie McGrath squeezed Cuala across he middle.

And the introduction of Dillon Mulligan (0-3) had the twin effect of easing the scoring burden on O'Rorke and forcing everyone in Parnell Park to ask simultaneously why he hadn't started.

By the 51st minute, they were two up, having outscored Cuala by 0-10 to 0-1 to there in the half. Scandalously under-utilised, Cuala's forwards then somehow found a rhythm again.

When you have that many good forwards, it's always going to be easier to generated scores from somewhere.

Cuala got them from everywhere.

Kenny, Cronin, both Treacy brothers and finally, Mark Schutte all staged mini interventions, breaking Crokes just at that point when they looked strongest and Cuala appeared brtittle.

"Our lads, it just shows the character," Kenny reckoned. "They didn't panic.

"We regained our shape and got a couple of scores and finished very strong.

"I thought Crokes were very good. They were very clean. It was a very sporting game.

"It was a hard-fought, clean game."

And one in which Cuala needed to be excellent twice to win it.

Ambition

It has, Kenny noted, been easy to put this team back on the road after last year's title success - their first in 21 years - and subsequent Leinster final loss to Oulart The Ballagh.

"Oh Jesus, yeah. When you're playing at this level, you want to win every time," he insisted.

"If you win one county Championship," he concluded, "and you have no ambition after that, you're not much of a sportsperson, are you?"

dublin shc final: cuala 1-15 kilmucud crokes 0-15

SCORERS - Cuala: C Cronin 1-3, D Treacy 0-5 (3f, 1 '65), N Kenny 0-3, M Schutte 0-2, S Moran, S Treacy 0-1 each. KIlmacud: O O'Rorke: 0-10 (6f, 1 '65), D Mulligan 0-3, C Conway, F Whitely 0-1 each.

CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O'Callaghan, S Timlin; J Malone, P Schutte, J Sheanon; S Moran, D O'Connell; C Waldron, C Cronin, D Treacy; N Kenny, M Schutte, S Treacy. Subs: Con O'Callaghan for Waldron (43).

KILMACUD CROKES: M Collins; N Corcoran, R Walsh, J Clinton; B O'Carroll, J Doughan, C MacGabhann; R O'Loughlin, N Ó Ríordáin; R O'Dwyer, S McGrath, C Conway; R O'Carroll, O O'Rorke, F Whitely. Subs: D Mulligan for O'Loughlin (29), D Kelly for Ó Ríordáin (54), A Considine for Whitely (59).

WIDES - Cuala: 9 (7 + 2). Kilmacud: 10 (6 + 4).

BOOKED - Cuala: 2 (D Treacy 21, P Schutte 28). Kilmacud: 3 (B O'Carroll 24, McGrath 28, R O'Carroll 35).

REF: S Stack (Parnell's)

ATTENDANCE: 4,000 (Est.)

MAN OF THE MATCH: Colm Cronin (Cuala)

Dublin shc final


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