Cuala finish with four late points to finally see off Na Piarsaigh challenge and retain All-Ireland title
CUALA 2-17 NA PIARSAIGH 1-17
CUALA became just the fifth club to win back-to-back All-Ireland club hurling titles in Portlaoise today with a three point win over Na Piarsaigh in an epic replay that will go down as one of classic finals.
Level going into injury-time after extra-time failed to separate the sides in Croke Park last Saturday, a brace of David Treacy frees and a final score from the excellent Mark Schutte secured a victory for Mattie Kenny’s side.
Na Piarsiagh, the 2016 champions, collapsed exhausted and dejected at the final whistle as the O’Moore Park was invaded by a swarm of jubilant red and white clad Cuala supporters.
The teams took up where they left off last week.
The closeness of the exchanges were almost a mirror of last Saturday’s instant-classic in Croke Park.
And Adrian Breen was the first half’s most prominent forward.
He took Oisín Gough for three points in the first 24 minutes before Paul Schutte was switched on.
Breen promptly scored another off the Cuala captain, who then injured his hamstring and was replaced.
Mattie Kenny was forced to sacrifice Darragh O’Connell – who scored the best point in the first half after a brilliant run along the sideline – from his midfield in a bid to halt Breen’s scoring.
Cuala led by 0-10 to 0-9 at half-time but there was nothing to separate the performances of the teams to that point.
Notably, neither had threatened a goal either and though the second half started along identical lines, that all changed in the 39th minute of the match.
First, Tommy Grimes flicked a hand pass straight to Cuala sub Nicky Kenny, who went along the end line and angled a shot past Podge Kennedy.
Then, from the next play, Mark Schutte took possession in a similar position, embarked on the same journey and applied a similar finish.
In a tie where daylight hadn’t appeared between the teams, Cuala now had a six point lead.
Remarkably then, Na Piarsaigh scored the next 1-2 of the match.
Their goal came from David Breen but owed everything to Shane Dowling’s catch, run and pass.
Na Piarsaigh then inched ahead thanks to Dowling’s fourth free of the match but Con O’Callaghan equalised and in injury-time, Mark Schutte won a free that Treacy converted for the lead.
A further Treacy free, after a contentious foul on Con O’Callaghan, put them further ahead before Schutte – who finished with 1-2 – got the clincher.
SCORERS – Cuala: D Treacy 0-9 (7f, 1 ’65), M Schutte 1-2, N Kenny 1-0, Con O’Callaghan 0-2, D O’Connell, S Moran (f), J Sheanon, J Malone 0-1 each. Na Piarsaigh: A Breen, S Dowling (4f) 0-5 each, K Downes, P Casey 0-2 each. J Boylan, D Dempsey, G Brown 0-1 each.
CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S Timlin; P Schutte, S Moran, J Sheanon; S Treacy, D O’Connell; C Cronin, D Treacy, J Malone; M Schutte, Con O’Callaghan, C Sheanon. Subs: N Kenny for C Sheanon (26 inj), S Stapleton for P Schutte (29 inj),
NA PIARSAIGH: P Kennedy; A Dempsey, M Casey, N Buckley; J Boylan, C King, K Kennedy; W O’Donoghue, D Dempsey; S Dowling, P Casey, D Breen; K Downes, A Breen, R Lynch. Subs: T Grimes for M Casey (32 inj), C Boylan for Lynch (40), G Brown for Buckley (41), M Foley for Boylan (59).
REF: P O’Dwyer (Carlow)