Saturday 16 December 2017

Superior strength in numbers may get the job done for Cuala

Tony Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile
Tony Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

If you were to take this AIB All-Ireland senior club hurling final on the work already done, you couldn't look past a Ballyea team that has already taken care of Thurles Sarsfields, Glen Rovers and St Thomas', champions of Tipperary, Cork and Galway.

If it was judged on a county's tradition of winning the showpiece, then Ballyea tick that box too, the previous successes of Sixmilebridge and St Joseph's Doora-Barefield providing a pathway for the Banner men.

If it was distilled down to the influence of one hurler there'd only be one name for consideration.

Anyone who saw Tony Kelly's resuscitation of his team against Thurles Sarsfields in their Munster semi-final in November especially would appreciate how profound his influence is, even in a team of such quality. Once they shook off the slumber, just seven days after their breakthrough Clare success, Kelly drove them to new levels.

But he hasn't been alone. Niall Deasy's progression has been steep from game to game while Gary Brennan's athleticism really shines through on a hurling field. In Jack Browne and Paul Flanagan they have strong leaders in defence.


By contrast, Cuala are the first ever Dublin team in an All-Ireland final, they've had the easier path to the final, with their most notable success against Kilkenny's O'Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster final and, despite the breadth of their talent, they can't individually match Kelly.

But there's a very even balance to their team. In attack, rising star Con O'Callaghan has been the most prolific scorer in the provincial and All-Ireland championships, hitting seven of their 11 goals in four games.

But David and Sean Tracy, Mark Schutte and Colm Cronin provide significant back up to the youngster who is destined for the Dublin football team sooner rather than later.

In defence Paul Schutte has been injured but Oisin Gough, Cian O'Callaghan and Sean Moran provide a strong nucleus behind a Daragh O'Connell-driven midfield.

The concern for Cuala is that they've won every game since the Dublin championship so easily.

Ballyea were made sweat for it with St Thomas' comeback in the semi-final though the repetition of conceding two goals in each of their three games since winning in Clare is surely a concern.

Laying a plan to scramble those Kelly shots off either side on either wing that he is renowned for is the obvious key for Cuala. Strength in numbers may suffice.

Cuala v Ballyea,

Live, TG4, 3.0

Irish Independent

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