Cuala save best til last

by James Hendicott
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CUALA returned to Dalkey on Friday night to enjoy a St Patrick’s Day that will be forever etched into the memory, after the club comfortably won the biggest game in their history to become All-Ireland club hurling champions.
Boss Mattie Kenny, already linked to county jobs off the back of his achievements this year, worked wonders in his tactics, shutting down star Ballyea man Tony Kelly and getting the better of a tight forward battle to see the side home by 2-19 to 1-10.
After the match, Kenny said: “it’s an unbelievable feeling. We’re very proud, very happy.
“It’s a huge day for everyone in the south Dublin region and everyone in Dublin hurling.
“We were expecting a huge battle form Ballyea, and we got that. Like a lot of games at Croke Park, it hinged on a couple of crucial scores.
The goal in the first half kind of settled down the team, and we got a few points after that, so we took a lead into the dressing room at halftime. That gave us our platform for the second half.”
Kenny singled out John Sheanon in particular for the job he did in keeping Clare man Kelly quiet, saying: “John is a great hurler as well as a great man marker. He got a point in the first half that was a testament to the player he is.
“Tony Kelly is an outstanding hurler, one of the best hurlers in Ireland, and we’re very proud of all our players, but John should be very proud of how he handled himself out there today.”
“It should give a big boost to Dublin hurling. There’s a lot of good players there, and it’s definitely going to give a lift to the squad and to Ger Cunningham,” he continued.
Cuala hosted a huge reception in Hyde Road for the side on Friday night, bringing back the Tommy Moore Cup on a stage in front of hundreds of fans in their Dalkey home.
A sign of the players’ class came in a moment spent with the Under-9s in celebration, encouraging the youngsters for the future.
Colm Cronin later said the club had “saved their best ‘til last,” calling the Croke Park display “our best performance all year.”
Cronin thanked Kenny for his three years in charge of the club to get them to this stage but added that the achievement is the culmination of “Trojan work going back 20 years.
“Many of those involved were up in the stands. We were the lucky ones who got to play the final.”
Many of the Cuala players will return to a Dublin side that has looked shaky without them over the coming weeks, battling to keep them in the top tier of county hurling.
While speculation about a bigger, county job for Kenny rumbles on in the background, the celebrations won’t fully subside for some time.

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