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Con is back to lift Cuala into final

Dublin SHC Semi-final: Cuala 1-17 Lucan Sars 0-13


Oisín Gough of Cuala in action against Emmett Ó Conghaile of Lucan Sarsfields during the Dublin SHC semi-final at Parnell Park

Oisín Gough of Cuala in action against Emmett Ó Conghaile of Lucan Sarsfields during the Dublin SHC semi-final at Parnell Park

Oisín Gough of Cuala in action against Emmett Ó Conghaile of Lucan Sarsfields during the Dublin SHC semi-final at Parnell Park

There was a discernible end-of-days feeling about the first quarter of Cuala's Dublin SHC semi-final in Parnell Park yesterday, the sort of watershed moment even the great teams ultimately endure.

After 20 minutes, they trailed Lucan Sarsfields by 0-5 to 0-1.

Cuala, beaten once already this year by Na Fianna in the group stages of the championship, were playing with the wind.

They hadn't scored since the opening seconds and in almost every individual contest, were being beaten to the ball.

Lucan were playing with their usual physical zeal, wolfishly hunting down red shirts and relieving them of possession, the formula that worked so well in their quarter-final victory over Kilmacud Crokes.

Meanwhile, the Lucan subs and management team were doing their best to dominate the noise and atmosphere in a practically empty Parnell Park.

All the conditions for an ambush.

So if they are to make it a fifth county title in six years when they meet Ballyboden St Enda's in two weeks time, no-one can accuse Cuala of doing it the easy way.

"Championship hurling semi-finals are about winning," observed their manager, Willie Maher afterwards.

"And we came here today to win a semi-final and it was tough at times. That's the nature of this championship and many others. The Dublin championship is very strong and we're delighted to get the win.

"Lucan hurled very well there and they were very, very tough and won a lot of ruck ball and it brought out the best in our lads in the end. It's about winning matches and that was what we did."

The pre-match signs were good for Cuala. Con O'Callaghan, who had missed their quarter-final win over St Brigid's - as well as Cuala's last two football championship matches - was togged and moving freely during the warm-up.

As it went, O'Callaghan took his time to warm to the game. But when he did, his contributions were vital.

"Con's a super player and a super fella," Maher praised.

"He has brothers playing, he has cousins playing. It's his family, his community.

"And we spoke about that before the game; the importance of hurling to the Cuala community today, not being able to go to matches.

"We're just delighted to get the victory for those people."

O'Callaghan finished with three points to his name.

But easily his most influential contribution was an assist for Seán Moran's second half goal.

By then, Cuala had slowly reeled Lucan back within swinging distance but couldn't quite nose ahead.

David Treacy, who similarly took a while to find his range, got Cuala momentarily level from a free but CJ Smith inched Lucan ahead with their 12th point, exactly half of which came from forced turnovers.

And then O'Callaghan, in time-honoured tradition, won a long ball from midfield and fed Moran, who drove his shot into the turf directly in front of Lucan goalkeeper Cillian Murray.

The sliotar bounced awkwardly and into the net and just for good measure, O'Callaghan followed it up with a point after a driving run at the heart of the Lucan defence to establish a three-point Cuala lead.

Along with the introduction of Colm Cronin, that was the most important moment of the day for Cuala as the made a fifth final in six years.

"You'll always be concerned... playing with the breeze and five-one down," Maher noted. "That wasn't in the overall gameplan. But our lads dug in and we sat a bit deeper in the second period into the wind.

"That's ultimately the difference in the end."

SCORERS - Cuala: D Treacy 0-7 (6f, '65), S Moran 1-1 (0-1f), Con O'Callaghan 0-3, D O'Floinn 02, N Carty, S Treacy, C Cronin, C Sheanon 0-1 each. Lucan: B Coffey 0-7 (7f), K Fitzgerald 0-2, P Kelly, C Crummey, CJ Smith, P Crummey 0-1 each.

CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O'Callaghan, M Conroy; D O'Connell, J Sheanon, J Malone; N Carty, S Treacy; S Moran, M Schutte, D O'Floinn; D Treacy, Con O'Callaghan, L Murphy. Subs: C Cronin for Cart y (h-t), S Timlin for Conroy (51), C Sheanon for Murphy (46), E Murphy for D Treacy (58)

LUCAN SARSFIELDS: C Murray; P Claffey, J Bellew, A Murphy; P Rigney, J McCaffrey, M McCaffrey; R Smith, K Fitzgerald; P Kelly, C Crummey, B Coffey; C Dowling, P Crummey, CJ Smith. Subs: C Walsh for Murphy (25 inj), H Ladd for Kelly (53), E Ó Conaghaile for Smith (55)

REF: S Stack (Parnell's)