Cuala conjure a happy ending
CRAOBH CHIARÁIN 0-12
STRONG-FINISHING Cuala produced a decisive last five minutes when narrowly accounting for Craobh Chiaráin by two points in their tetchy Dublin SHC 'A' Group A tie at O'Toole Park on Saturday afternoon.
Last year's beaten finalists deservedly trailed as the absorbing contest entered injury-time but a brace of frees from David Treacy and an excellent Cian Waldron point confirmed a slightly fortuitous two-point win for the Dalkey men.
With Cuala having defeated Craobh in the quarter-final last year, there was a distinct edge to the contest with Francis Usanga powering forward for the opening score of the game in the third minute.
Cuala responded through a Barry Connolly point within two minutes, but Craobh held the upper hand in the tight exchanges and were deservedly two points clear soon after following points from both Alan McCrabbe and Usanga.
In the 13th minute, Cuala almost goaled when Mark Schutte rattled the upright after a glorious pass from the impressive Seán Moran and within a minute McCrabbe rifled a penalty over the crossbar after David Keane was impeded by Seán Brennan.
Crucially, Cuala availed of that let-off to plunder the game's solitary goal in the 17th minute when Schutte reacted smartly in forcing home after Stephen Chester had deflected JJ Ryan's goal-bound shot onto his left-hand post.
Brennan was to his side's rescue when denying Keane in the 21st minute, but the Donnycarney men finished the half strongly with Stephen McDonald's point ensuring his side a 0-8 to 1-3 interval advantage.
Cuala resumed brightly through points from Treacy and Ryan but Craobh responded in typically obdurate fashion thanks largely to the efforts of Darren O'Reilly and Eugene Farrell and two McCrabbe frees restored their narrow lead.
Waldron and McCrabbe exchanged superb points from play as the half progressed and the nip-and-tuck continued with Cuala restoring parity by the 54th minute through scores by Connolly and substitute Brian Fitzgerald.
From limited possession, Usanga eked out a lead for Chiaráins four minutes later, but it proved insufficient as Cuala took the precious two points on offer with a strong and telling conclusion to affairs.
SCORERS - Cuala: B Connolly (1f), D Treacy (3f) 0-3 each, M Schutte 1-0, C Waldron 0-2, P Schutte, JJ Ryan, B Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
Craobh Chairáin: A McCrabbe 0-7 (0-3f, 0-2 '65', 0-1 pen), F Usanga 0-3, G Ennis, S McDonald 0-1 each.
CUALA: S Brennan; C Ó Giolláin, S Walsh, N O'Dowd; S Moran, O Gough, S Timlin; P Schutte, J Sheanon; B Connolly, D Treacy, JJ Ryan; C Waldron, D Cunningham, M Schutte. Subs: B Fitzgerald for Cunningham (36), B Browne for O'Dowd (38).
CRAOBH CHIARÁIN: S Chester; K Elliott, E Farrell, G Kelly; D Kelly, D O'Reilly, P O'Boyle; S McDonald, A McCrabbe; G Ennis, F Usanga, R Mahon; D Keane, C McGouran, M McGuirk. Subs: K Warren for Ennis (37), S Kirwan for Mahon (51), K Hetherton for Keane (58).
REF: R Fennelly (Trinity Gaels).