Cool Cuala keep Ballyea at bay to become first Dublin club to land All-Ireland hurling title
AIB All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final: Cuala (Dublin) 2-19 Ballyea (Clare) 1-10
From Neil Loughran at Croke Park
THE red arrows from Cuala flew highest at Croke Park yesterday to become the first Dublin club to get its hands on the Tommy Moore Cup as Ballyea were ruthlessly brushed aside.
Leading an Icelandic ‘Thunder Clap’ among the Cuala ultras in the lower Cusack Stand in the moments afterwards, Mattie Kenny’s Dalkey destroyers drank in the acclaim after an historic All-Ireland success.
In truth, the Leinster champions always looked in control against a Ballyea side that struggled to get talisman Tony Kelly involved in the game at any stage, with the Cuala midfield pairing of Jake Malone and man-of-the-match Darragh O’Connell dominating.
And it was Malone who sunk the killer blow for the Dubs seven minutes from time.
Ninety seconds earlier, a Pearse Lillis goal had given the Munster kingpins renewed hope of a comeback as they closed the gap to four. Unfortunately for Robbie Hogan’s men, that was to be their last score of the day as Cuala responded in the fashion befitting of champions.
First the superb O’Connell bounded in on goal and opted to take a point, only for midfield partner Malone to go one better shortly after as he left Kelly in his wake before firing to the net, launching the southsiders’ charge towards the finishing line.
Cuala boss Kenny admitted they had learnt harsh lessons from their 2015 Leinster final defeat to Oulart-The-Ballagh and were determined not to fall short yesterday.
He said: “There’s never ‘next year’ - you have to win the competition you’re in because there’s no guarantee you’re going to be back there.
“We didn’t want to be the first from Cuala, we didn’t want to be the first from Dublin, we just wanted to win the match. When you play sport at this level, the motivation has to be that you want to be the best you can be yourself.”
With corner-forward Mark Schutte dropping back to form a midfield three and the wind at their backs, Cuala gradually took control after a scrappy opening quarter of an hour.
Colm Cronin landed the first decisive blow, firing home after a long ball forward was broken down by Con O’Callaghan into his path, to make it 1-2 to 0-1.
With Dublin star David Treacy typically unerring from placed balls, Kenny’s men kept the scoreboard ticking over as Cuala took a 1-7 to 0-4 lead into the break, a frustrated Ballyea failing to register anything in the last 10 minutes of the half.
One or two moments often define games between such quality operators, and so it proved yesterday.
Two minutes into the second half, Lillis spurned a golden goal chance that would have brought his team right back into the game, the Ballyea forward seeing his soft shot easily saved by Sean Brennan in the Cuala goals. It was a huge moment.
The Clare men weren’t disheartened though and rattled off five points in six minutes, three of which were Niall Deasy frees, before Lillis struck for a goal.
But, rather than acting as a launching pad for Ballyea to build, it seemed to shock Cuala back to life as they scored 1-4 in the dying stages to kickstart the celebrations, Malone’s goal a sucker-punch from which Ballyea would never recover.
“They're a fine team and on the day they were far better than us,” admitted Hogan.
“Some of our established players just didn’t get into the game. As the song says ‘it’s a long, long way from Clare to here’ and it’ll be a long way back here.”
Cuala: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S Timlin; S Moran, P Schutte, J Sheanon (0-1); J Malone (1-0), D O’Connell (0-3); C Waldron, C Cronin (1-1), D Treacy (0-9, 0-7 frees); S Treacy, Con O’Callaghan (0-2), M Schutte (0-1). Subs: C Sheanon (0-2) for C Waldron (46), R Tierney for S Timlin (61), N Kenny for C Cronin (63)
Ballyea: K Sheehan; J Neylon, J Browne, B Carrig; G O’Connell, P Flanagan, J Murphy (0-1); T Kelly, S Lineen; N Deasy (0-6, frees), G Brennan (0-1), C Doonan; P Connolly, D Burke, P Lillis (1-2). Subs: M O’Leary for P Connolly (37), D Egan for D Burke (40), B Murphy for J Neylon (56), M Coughlan for S Lineen (57)
Yellow cards: T Kelly (27), G O’Connell (34), N Deasy (53)
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary)