Con O’Callaghan scored a stunning goal for Cuala to power their win over Slaughtneil. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

CUALA selector Tadhg Murphy declared himself “very proud” after the Dalkey side blasted their way past Derry’s Slaughtneil to reach the All Ireland club hurling final, with a compelling victory on Saturday.
Cuala are the first Dublin club side ever to reach the final and will meet Clare’s Ballyea in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. While careful to emphasise “we’ve nothing to celebrate yet,” Murphy described the club’s energetic return from a three-month absence as “excellent”.
“It was a very complete performance,” Murphy told GazetteSport after the game in Armagh. “We were wary of the long lay-off and we worked extremely hard to make sure we went into the game in the best way possible. The time off is difficult but it can also be an incentive to go out and do your stuff. There was no complacency, and we came into the game in good shape.”
Cuala started the game exceptionally well, taking control in the opening few minutes, and establishing a lead of eleven points by halftime, including through a stunning Con O’Callaghan goal.
While Slaughtneil had a stronger second half, the gap ended up even larger, with Cuala winning out by 3-21 to 2-11.
“It was a difficult game and we’ll take a few days to recover now, stay fit and have a bit of a rest,” Murphy said.
“It’s probably a good thing that the gap is a little smaller and the final is only around the corner.
“We’re very focused but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We defended very well, and there wasn’t a huge amount of pressure at the back, so we’re not too concerned about letting in the two goals.
“The connections within the team – like in the final ball from Mark Schutte to Niall Carty right at the death for the last goal – show we’re going in the right direction, and prove that we can keep going until right at the end. We’ll go at it full tilt.”
Murphy expects Cuala to be at full strength going into the St Patrick’s Day date, with the club’s numerous Dublin players staying away from the county panel until after the big game.
Paul Schutte, who missed the Slaughtneil game, was “touch and go, and we didn’t want to risk aggravating the injury,” Murphy explained.
“But he’ll definitely be back for the final. He’s a natural leader. He’s had a difficult few seasons with injury, but he’ll be a key player for us.”
Cuala have three weeks to prepare for what is by far the biggest game in the club’s history, a game which could make them All Ireland champions. They could hardly be better placed.

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