Cuala pass the Ultramate test to make history

by Stephen Findlater

CUALA’S All-Ireland hurling final was a “pinch yourself” success on St Patrick’s Day as the Dalkey club swept aside Clare side Ballyea to bring home Dublin’s first ever senior hurling title.
The win – achieved in rough conditions, and through the most dominant of performances – proved the culmination of Cuala’s substantial rise.
Things started as they were to continue for Cuala, though the opening periods were notably nervy, with Ballyea pointedly defensive in their outlook. The Dalkey side’s substantial wind advantage obvious whenever the sliotar soared.
The key early moment came when Con O’Callaghan was able to beat several Ballyea men to a high ball, flicking a clever edged pass through to the charging Colm Cronin, who smoothly finished into the corner of the Clare side’s goal.
The major was typical Cuala and reflective of a tight game: David Treacy frees were the bread and butter in the first half, but O’Callaghan and Cronin’s smooth manoeuvre in the tightest of circumstances was the kind of smart thinking that was to set Cuala apart.
O’Callaghan himself was really struggling to get a decent touch on the ball, marked out of the game often by two Ballyea players at a time. The scraps he did pick up were also to prove critical, however, as he created the goal and hit two points of his own, as the reason for the tight marking became apparent.
At 1-7 to 0-4 at half time, David Treacy and O’Callaghan’s efficiency had been the key. The margin could have been greater: a chipped O’Callaghan effort had also cannoned off the underside of the crossbar with Ballyea’s ‘keeper stranded.
With Cuala already in control, however, the mid-section of the second half was to prove the decisive one. After an exchange of points that did little to impact the gap between the clubs, a goal chance for Ballyea, mishit by Pearse Lillis, was swiftly followed by a smashed Niall Deasy goal for the side in yellow.
Cuala’s answer was emphatic with Jake Malone’s smoothly-taken goal accompanied by a run of five points in a row for the Dalkey side that put them out of sight of their challengers.
Cuala were left to give a couple of their subs a run out, take the chances that presented themselves and see out an All-Ireland club hurling final with a very one-sided result.
If captain Oisin Gough dreamt of winning the club’s biggest ever encounter the night before, the margin of 2-19 to 1-10 might have felt beyond the reach of even pre-game fantasy. Cuala, though, could hardly be more emphatic champions

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