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Connolly the key to Cuala win

CUALA 2-19, CRUMLIN 2-12

Cuala withstood a brave Crumlin second-half challenge to prevail by seven points in their entertaining semi-final at Parnell Park on Saturday afternoon.

Central to Cuala's victory was the display of wing-forward Barry Connolly, who amassed 15 points over the hour, including six telling points from play while David Treacy impressed sporadically, striking a crucial first-half goal.

After a scrappy opening, Crumlin's Wes O'Brien opened the scoring with an excellent point from play but Connolly, son of legendary Galway captain Joe Connolly, struck four points inside the first 10 minutes to hand his side a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage.

In the 13th minute, Mark Schutte escaped the attentions of the dogged Conor Murphy to flash a goal chance narrowly wide but it mattered little as Connolly continued on his merry way, with three further points preceding an excellent effort from play by midfielder Seán Barron.

Barron was centrally involved in Cuala's opening goal as his perfectly timed pass released Treacy and a jink beyond John Cullen gave the Dublin senior sufficient space to rattle the net from eight yards.

Although O'Brien and Shane Ryan replied for Crumlin, Cuala finished the half in the ascendancy with late points from the impressive Seán Moran and the ubiquitous Connolly ensuring a healthy 1-12 to 0-6 interval lead.

O'Brien and Kevin Byrne narrowed Crumlin's deficit upon the restart and a 39th-minute goal from Adam McGreal, benefitting from excellent approach play from David Donnelly, gave Mick Mangan's men a modicum of hope.

However, a wonderful team move involving Schutte and Barry Fitzgerald soon after culminated in Cian Waldron pulling a crisp, low finish beyond Bill McCormack with Connolly maintaining his superb scoring rate with a brace of points from placed balls.

Another McGreal goal, eight minutes from time, added fresh impetus to Crumlin's challenge but Byrne's penalty that was deflected wide by Moran proved the final nail in the coffin with, fittingly, Connolly landing the final score in added time.

Scorers -- Cuala: B Connolly 0-15 (9f), D Treacy 1-1, C Waldron 1-0, S Moran, S Barron, M Schutte 0-1 each. Crumlin: A McGreal 2-2, W O'Brien 0-6 (4f), S Ryan 0-2, K Byrne, D Donnelly 0-1 each.

Cuala: F O'Brien; R Reid, P Schutte, S Timlin; C Gough, O Gough, S Moran; A Hudson, S Barron; B Connolly, B Fitzgerald, D Treacy; L Keating, C Waldron, M Schutte. Subs: D Keating for L Keating (half-time), D Cullen for Barron (half-time), S O'Brien for Hudson (48), D Cunningham for Fitzgerald (57).

Crumlin: B McCormack; C Murphy, J Cullen, C Martin; P Devlin, C Hennebry, P O'Brien; P Elliott, K Byrne; S Ryan, W O'Brien, S Cullen; D Donnelly, S Martin, A McGreal. Subs: R Elliott for P O'Brien (26), J Maher for Devlin (half-time), D Whelan for P Elliott (40), S Dunne for S Cullen (47).

Referee: T Lambe (St Vincent's).