Cuala caught in Leinster

by Cóilín Duffy

Leinster SHC quarter-final
St Mullin’s (Carlow )2-13
Cuala 0-18

Cuala’s quest for their third AIB Leinster Senior Club Hurling title in four years was halted at the first hurdle by a determined St Mullins side, as the Carlow champions worked hard to deliver a one-point win in Sunday’s quarter-final at Netwatch Cullen Park.

A 56th minute goal from James Doyle helped pave the way for somewhat of a shock win by St. Mullins.

But, in truth, Carlow hurling teams have been putting up solid performances in the last few years, including Mount Leinster Rangers who delivered Leinster honours in 2013.

Indeed, a determined St Mullin’s performance was no less than what Cuala would have expected coming into this match.

It was a battle of the free-takers in the opening half, as Cuala’s David Treacy and St Mullin’s Marty Kavanagh were to the fore, with Cuala edging a 0-9 to 0-8 interval lead, after a competitive opening half.

Doyle opened the scoring for the Carlow side in this game after six minutes, but it wasn’t long before Cuala hit the front.

Points from Sean Moran and Diarmuid Ó Floinn put the Dublin champions ahead, before Seamus Murphy had the sides tied after nine minutes.

Like in their previous games, Cuala were keen to grab a couple of early goals.

But, unlike in their Dublin championship matches, this tactic failed to work out. St Mullin’s defence stood firm, and buoyed on by a strong support they grew in confidence.

Cuala pushed two points clear three times in the opening half, but Marty Kavanagh provided a settling force.

The free-taker landed 10 points over the hour, including nine from placed balls.

Mullin’s grabbed their first goal three minutes after the restart after a speculative effort from Jack Kavanagh.

His long-range strike for a point dipped into the goal-mouth off Cuala goalkeeper Sean Brennan, but the Dalkey men used their experience and regrouped well.

David Treacy’s dead-ball accuracy dragged Cuala back in front, with a trio of unanswered points.

Willie Maher’s charges started this game without three of their key men, with Con O’Callaghan, Oisín Gough and Colm Cronin not featuring in the starting line-up.

O’Callaghan, who was honoured with a PwC GAA-GPA All-Star on Friday night, and went off injured in Cuala’s Dublin final win, was introduced in the 43rd minute.

Little separated the sides throughout the second half, with Cuala claiming the lead in the closing 10 minutes, until a late St. Mullins surge.

Two Treacy frees cut the deficit to just a point, but St Mullin’s held out for a famous win.

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