Cuala end Dublin's 37-year wait for another Leinster crown as young football star O'Callaghan steals the show
Cuala 3-19 O'Loughlin Gaels 1-16
Cuala have not only become the first Dublin club to win the Leinster senior hurling title since Crumlin triumphed in the 1979 championship but according to O’Loughlin Gaels manager, Aidan Fogarty they will extend the empire by taking the All-Ireland title on St Patrick’s Day.
“I think they can push on and win the All-Ireland. Their brand of hurling is open and fast. It makes them very hard to stop. They are a very impressive team,” he said.
Cuala’s extensive list of qualities proved all too much for the Kilkenny champions, who could have lost by a whole lot more.
That would certainly have been the case only for goalkeeper, Stephen Murphy, who made several excellent saves, as well as scoring a long range free in the first half.
He was by far the Gaels’ best performer on a day when Cuala’s pace, energy and relentless determination merged into a powerful force that was not going to be stopped.
The Gaels thought they had every angle covered in their preparations but once Colm Cronin scored Cuala’s first goal in the seventh minute, the title always looked likely to be Dalkey-bound for the first time.
Their second goal, scored by Con O’Callaghan in the 21st minute summed up the difference between the teams. A five-man move ended with O’Callaghan beating Murphy and putting Cuala seven points clear.
Cuala’s precision passing was hugely impressive. So too was their support play, an area where the Gaels struggled all day.
As well as pouncing for a goal, O’Callaghan also scored 0-4 from open play, yet again underlining a vast array of skills which Dublin hurling manager, Ger Cunningham would, no doubt, love to have on board the county bus.
However, O’Callaghan will remain in the football camp, although he won’t be available to push his claims for a starting place until after Cuala’s involvement in the All-Ireland championship is completed.
And since they play Derry champions, Slaughtneil in the semi-final in February, it’s likely that a St Patrick’s Day date with either St Thomas’ (Galway) or Ballyea (Clare) in Croke Park awaits them.
O’Callaghan took his total for three Leinster championship games to 5-10.
But then Cuala are a high-scoring team, led by David Treacy, whose accuracy from placed balls is a powerful weapon in their armoury.
He pointed nine frees yesterday and added further embellishment when slicing a delightfully-struck line ball over the bar in the 43rd minute.
It was a very important score as the Gaels were playing their best hurling around that time. They trailed by 2-8 to 0-9 at half-time but won the opening nine minutes of the second half by 0-5 to 0-3, cutting the deficit to three points.
It presented Cuala with their biggest test of the day and their response was emphatic as they won the remainder of the game by 1-7 to 1-1, the goal coming from Mark Schutte in the final minute.
“We re-set when they cut our lead to three points. We just kept refocusing ourselves because we knew we could finish strong. When it was in the melting pot, lads stood up all over the park — that’s what it takes to win a Leinster title,” said Schutte.
The Gaels might have thought they were ready to complete the recovery after the display of industry early in the second half but it didn’t last long against quick, slick opposition.
“We got some momentum in the second half but we just weren’t fluent enough all through the field. We struggled everywhere — we had no line that was particularly solid all the way through. There are days like that — we played well throughout the year but it didn’t happen for us today. We weren’t able to answer the questions Cuala asked of us,” said Fogarty.
In fairness, the queries were wide and varied as the Dublin champions performed with a precision and swagger that delighted their followers, whose Santa hat brigade brought real colour to O’Moore Park.
Schutte believes that the bitter experience of losing last year’s final to Oulart-The Ballagh was central to Cuala’s success this time.
“We were heart-broken last year. Coming back this year, we wanted to win the Leinster championship but you’ve got six games to win a Dublin championship before you can even think ahead.
“We had a couple of huge battles in Dublin and we nearly got caught there. We took it as a step-by-step process and now we’re Leinster champions. We’re going to enjoy this for the next couple of days and then we’ll sit down and really look at Slaughtneil. They have done incredible things up in Ulster so they’re going to be a huge test for us,” he said.
That won’t prevent Cuala from being overwhelming favourites to reach the final, thus providing Dublin hurling with another significant boost.
Manager, Galway man, Mattie Kenny said that the high standard of Dublin club hurling had Cuala right for the big Leinster tests.
“The Dublin championship is very difficult to win. They have five or six top teams and any of them could have done what we did today,” he said.
Beating the Kilkenny champions added to the sense of achievement on an occasion when the standard of score-taking was very high.
Mark Bergin matched Treacy in the free-taking stakes but the Gaels just couldn’t match Cuala in the many other facets which ultimately decided the outcome.
Scorers - Cuala: D Treacy 0-11 (9f, 1 line ball), Con O’Callaghan 1-4, Mark Schutte 1-1, C Cronin 1-0, D O’Connell 0-2 (1f), C Waldron 0-1. Loughlin Gaels: M Bergin 0-11 (10f), D Loughnane 1-0, M Comerford 0-2, S Murphy 0-2 (f), A Geoghegan, M Kelly 0-1 each.
Cuala - S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S Timlin; S Moran, P Schutte, J Sheanon; J Malone, D O’Connell; C Waldron, S Treacy, M Schutte; D Treacy, Con O’Callaghan, C Cronin. Sub: C Sheanon for Waldron (53).
O’Loughlin Gaels - S Murphy; A Forristal, A Kearns, E Kearns; A O’Brien, B Hogan, H Lawlor; P Butler, P Deegan; A Geoghegan, M Kelly, D Loughnane; S Johnston, M Bergin, M Comerford. Subs: S Mahony for A Kearns (27), P Cantwell for Butler (ht), S Bolger for Johnston (41).
Ref - M Murtagh (Westmeath)