O'Callaghan the main man again as Cuala goal blitz sinks St Martin's
Cuala 3-17 St Martin's 0-15
'GOALS win matches,' goes the old adage. Conversely, they also suck all energy and confidence from the team that's just conceded one.
St Martin's discovered this to their cost this afternoon at Parnell Park, where they coughed up two goals in the space of 60 first half seconds just at the point when they appeared to have Cuala on the back foot.
The All-Ireland champions never looked back, ultimately cruising to an 11-point victory and securing their place in a third consecutive AIB Leinster club SHC final – against Kilcormac/Killoughey on December 3.
Whereas their inexperienced Wexford rivals never fully recovered from that double-whammy.
Con O'Callaghan had been in a mood for plunder from the opening bell, and his goalward burst created the panic stations that led to Jake Malone's opening goal in the 18th minute.
From the very next attack, O'Callaghan completed the job himself, bursting through the middle of the visitors' defence before batting to the right corner.
It all meant that, for all their initial difficulties, Cuala led by 2-7 to 0-8 at the break. O'Callaghan sprung back to life early in the fourth quarter, shooting 0-3 from play in a whirlwind 90 seconds, then teeing up Colm Cronin for their third goal in the 49th minute.
From there on, their opponents' discipline started to unravel and they lost sub Michael Codd to a straight red for a strike on Seán Moran, then Jack O'Connor to a second yellow after he pulled at a throw-in ball, too wildly for the referee's liking.
Their only consolation was the metronomic form of Joe Coleman, who kept nailing his points from all distances and finished with 0-11 (including eight frees and a sublime sideline cut).
Cuala may have started as prohibitive 1/8 favourites but you'd never have guessed from the opening quarter.
St Martin's were missing their teenage talisman, Rory O'Connor, through a knee injury but his direct replacement, Coleman, stepped into the forward breach seamlessly.
He had already converted all four of his frees before landing an inspirational point from play, straight off the bás, in the 16th minute.
That left the visitors two ahead, 0-5 to 0-3. In most sectors they were showing no signs of being cowed by Cuala's reputation, their physicality ensuring the Dalkey men had little time to settle into their usual fluent groove.
But the goal threat from Cuala – and one man in particular, O'Callaghan – was ever-present. Even before the dam burst, he had threatened more than once and it begged an obvious question: surely Martin's would have been far better advised to crowd the space in front of the livewire No 14 with a sweeper?
Lessons for another day. But for Cuala, the epic journey continues.
SCORERS - Cuala: Con O'Callaghan 1-3, D Treacy 0-6 (4f, 1 '65'), J Malone, C Cronin 1-1 each, N Kenny 0-3, C Sheanon, B Fitzgerald, N Carty 0-1 each. St Martin's: J Coleman 0-11 (8f, 1 sideline cut), Joe O'Connor, Jack O'Connor, D Codd, D Waters 0-1 each.
CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O'Callaghan, S Timlin; J Sheanon, S Moran, P Schutte; D O'Connell, S Treacy; C Sheanon, C Cronin, J Malone; N Kirwan, Con O'Callaghan, D Treacy. Subs: N Carty for Con O'Callaghan (51), C Waldron for Cronin (51), R Tierney for Cian O'Callaghan (53), S Stapleton for C Sheanon (57), B Fitzgerald for Kenny (57).
ST MARTIN'S: L White; W Devereux, C Firman, P Kelly; D Waters, A Maddock, B O'Connor; H O'Connor, M Maloney; J Firman, Jack O'Connor, Joe O'Connor; C Lyng, J Coleman, M Coleman. Subs: D Codd for M Coleman (ht), M Codd for J Firman (40), B Maddock for B O'Connor (50), P Dempsey for Devereux (61).
REF: D Hughes (Carlow).