Thursday 22 August 2019

O'Callaghan too hot to handle for St Martin's

Cuala 3-17 St Martin's 0-15

Cuala star Con O’Callaghan scores his side’s second goal during the AIB Leinster SHC club semi-final against St Martin’s. Photo: Sportsfile
Cuala star Con O’Callaghan scores his side’s second goal during the AIB Leinster SHC club semi-final against St Martin’s. Photo: Sportsfile

Frank Roche

Mattie Kenny is probably fed up fielding fawning questions about Con O'Callaghan so, for once, the Cuala manager wasn't even asked.

Besides, the southside's most celebrated superhero had 'only' scored 1-3 from play, which qualifies as par for the O'Callaghan course these days.

St Martin's Jack O'Connor battles with Cuala's David Treacy. Photo: Sportsfile
St Martin's Jack O'Connor battles with Cuala's David Treacy. Photo: Sportsfile

It's what he has averaged during his provincial and All-Ireland club outings for the Dublin champions; it's what he scored against Dicksboro a fortnight ago; and it's what he tallied, once more, against St Martin's yesterday.

Job done, time to wrap the Young Footballer of the Year in cotton wool ahead of the Leinster final against Kilcormac/Killoughey on December 3 … he was substituted to loud acclaim from the Parnell Park stand after 51 minutes.

Afterwards, St Martin's boss Tomás Codd was the manager facing questions about you-know-who.

"Con O'Callaghan is a special player," said Codd. "I saw him two weeks ago against Dicksboro. Today again I think he scored 1-3 - yeah, unbelievable.

St. Martin's Conor Firman reaches out as Cuala's Niall Carty shoots. Photo: Sportsfile
St. Martin's Conor Firman reaches out as Cuala's Niall Carty shoots. Photo: Sportsfile

"He looks fast beside fast fellas so when someone is like that they are special, you know. I thought our lads fought bravely against him for the first half. But good players are patient, they wait their chance and generally their chance comes. His chance came and, towards the end, we were struggling to cope with him really."

O'Callaghan departed soon after he had stormed away from his second marker of the day, Willie Devereux, and another outfoxed covering player in the 49th minute … this time, instead of going for the jugular himself, he selflessly teed up Colm Cronin for Cuala's third goal.

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In his absence, discipline deserted St Martin's who lost sub Michael Codd to a straight red and Jack O'Connor to a second yellow.

Lustre

Cuala's Con O'Callaghan in action against St Martin's Aaron Maddock. Photo: Sportsfile
Cuala's Con O'Callaghan in action against St Martin's Aaron Maddock. Photo: Sportsfile

Curiously, 13 men outscored 15 by five points to three but this was more a reflection of a semi-final contest that had lost its competitive lustre.

It was a very different story to begin with. Wexford champions for the first time in nine years, St Martin's are very much the coming team on Slaneyside. They are very young and green but ultra-committed and not afraid to get stuck in either, reflected in a full-blooded first quarter during which they knocked Cuala out of their usually fluent stride while Joe Coleman kept their own scoreboard account in credit.

Rory O'Connor, the brightest start in the St Martin's firmament, had been an injury cry-off before throw-in - a recent scan had confirmed knee cartilage damage that will sideline him "for a few months". Yet Coleman was proving such an able deputy that you wondered if Cuala might have met their match.

Coleman's deadball radar was working from all distances - he would finish as the game's top-scorer with 0-11, comprising eight frees, a sublime sideline cut and two from play. The first of those, after four earlier frees, left the visitors 0-5 to 0-3 ahead after 16 minutes.

Cuala team-mates Paul Schutte, Oisín Gough and Seán Breanan celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
Cuala team-mates Paul Schutte, Oisín Gough and Seán Breanan celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

Their lead came with a caveat, however. A strategy of full engagement out the field was leaving space in front of Cuala's two-man inside line of O'Callaghan and Nicky Kenny (who again proved a livewire replacement for the stricken Mark Schutte).

"Obviously their tactic was working," Mattie Kenny surmised, "because they took the game to us and had a right go at us and you have to admire them for that."

The counter-argument is that, having witnessed some of O'Callaghan's previous exploits, St Martin's would have been better served planting a sweeper directly in front of the Cuala No 14, if only to suffocate the space in which he invariably thrives?

From the off, O'Callaghan had green flags on his mind. He was denied by 'keeper Luke White after two minutes; Jake Malone's 'goal' on the rebound was disallowed. Soon after, having played a one-two with Malone, he failed to get a clean connection and the danger was cleared.

But it was only a matter of time, and another bulldozing burst in from the left culminated in Malone getting the all-important touch in the 18th minute.

Within a minute, one goal became two and this was all O'Callaghan's work as he marauded through the middle, then cleverly improvised with a batted finish.

His fifth goal-bound foray drew another save from White, but it still looked grim for the visitors at the break, trailing 2-7 to 0-8.

And then it got even worse. After Darren Codd cut the deficit to four, David Treacy's monster point from midfield kick-started a renewed period of Cuala dominance, yielding 1-8 to just 0-1 in reply.

This included a hat-trick of O'Callaghan points, all from play, at the expense of Devereux, in less than 90 seconds.

Cronin's goal was followed by the rapid-fire dismissals of Michael Codd (for a strike on Seán Moran that prompted a mini-melee) and then Jack O'Connor for a second yellow after he pulled at a throw-in ball, too wildly for the liking of referee David Hughes.

"It didn't affect the outcome but I thought the ref didn't do us any favours either," Tomás Codd complained. "Particularly the second sending-off … when you throw the ball in between two players in a throw-in and it seems you are not allowed pull on it.

"Maybe that's the way in Carlow, but I can't understand why he gave that red card."

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 (h-t), M Codd for J Firman (40), B Maddock for B O'Connor (50), P Dempsey for Devereux (61).

REF - D Hughes (Carlow)

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