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Cuala a perfect Fitz' for leinster

DUBLIN intermediate champions Cuala got their Leinster campaign off to a fine start thanks to a well-deserved win over Longford side St Mary's, Grannard at O'Toole Park on Sunday afternoon.

Cuala ...........................................0-11

St Mary's (Longford) .................... 0-7

In what were very difficult conditions -- a heavy pitch not helped by 80 minutes of hurling just before this one -- the pace of the Dalkey men coupled with their superior fire-power were the deciding factors.

Dublin All-Ireland-winning corner back Mick Fitzsimons epitomised what Cuala were all about from his wing forward position. His pace caused untold problems for the Mary's defence, and indeed, was responsible for four of his side's total.

The midlands men were unfortunate in that they were missing three out of their starting 15 from their county final victory -- a factor that clearly dented their chances. They were also reduced to 13 men late on, but, in truth, the game was probably out of their reach at that stage.


Cuala midfielder James Power had a fine game, and it was he who opened the scoring when he put a penalty over the bar after Brian Sheridan had picked the ball up illegally from the ground inside the small square on eight minutes.

But the visitors to the capital hit back, with 18-year-old giant Timmy Jackson leading the charge with a terrific display. They went in front at the end of the first quarter thanks to a James Hynes free and a fine solo effort from Glen Kelly.

But that was the last time they held an advantage as Cuala took charge. Power slotted over from close range and a fine run resulted in Luke Keating splitting the posts to restore his team's lead.

It could have been better only for a super save by Mary's keeper Eoin Mallon denied Niall Carthy what looked a certain goal.

A cutting run from Fitzsimons created the space for Paul Schutte to get in on the scoring act. Fitzsimons drew a foul after a similar free on the opposite side minutes later which resulted in a pointed free by Carthy.

Cuala were threatening to dominate, but Mary's dug deep once more and their huge work-rate ensured they would finish the half strongly and Hynes' free rounded off the half and left them trailing by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break.

The same player cut the gap to the minimum immediately after the restart. But Cuala, now playing with the wind, began to use the ball intelligently and scored five on the bounce in a 15-minute spell which ultimately won them the game.

Carthy kicked three in that time, all from frees, while Keating and Conor O'Brien also found their range. Then Mary's saw Charlie Martin dismissed entering the final 10 minutes as their challenge appeared to be petering out.

They did find time for a brief rally as Liam Sullivan and Stephen Lynch both kicked dead-balls. But they needed a goal and they came up against a miserly Cuala defence, marshalled expertly by Mark Schutte and John Fitzsimons, so that never appeared likely.

Mick Fitzsimons then opened his legs once more in the final minute to create yet another point, this time for O'Brien. It came seconds after Bernard Clyne was shown a straight red for a late challenge, to compound Mary's misery.