CUALA 3-22 CRAOBH CHIARÁIN 1-8
CLASSY Cuala produced a performance of great quality and intensity in overwhelming Craobh Chiaráin to claim the 2009 U21A Hurling Championship at a sun-kissed O’Toole Park on Saturday evening.
In doing so, the Dalkey club added the small ball crown to the football equivalent won in equally impressive circumstances against Kilmacud Crokes last December and the challenge now will be to reproduce this success at senior level, where they have disappointed in recent times.
There is no shortage of talent coming through on the Cuala conveyor belt with players of the calibre of Scott O’Brien, Conor Gough, Mark Schutte and John Sheanon possessing the necessary qualities shared by their intercounty team-mates David Treacy and Oisín Gough.
In addition, the absence of three regular starters in Simon Timlin, Paul Schutte and Shane Murphy shows the depth in panel enjoyed by Cuala with all their replacements contributing to what was as accomplished a display you could find at this level.
For a youthful Craobh, it was an evening to put down to experience as they were simply outplayed from the first minute, when Cuala gave early notice of their intentions with a glorious Schutte point after fine work from Luke Keating.
Treacy and Kevin Warren exchanged frees prior to a five-minute delay when Rory Cole, who had impressed when introduced in the semi-final win over Ballyboden St Enda’s, suffered a fairly serious looking knee injury.
Cuala, who played with the benefit of a strong breeze in the opening half, seemed nonplussed by the disruption as Treacy put space between the sides with four successive frees before a Colm Sheanon point from play on 21 minutes left Craobh trailing by 0-7 to 0-1.
Matters deteriorated for the Donnycarney club soon after when Seán Barron showed impressive speed racing away from Seán Finnegan and his mishit shot sneaked past an unfortunate Ciarán McGowran at his near post.
It was one-way traffic with Cuala’s half-back line of Adam Hudson, John Sheanon and Conor Gough completely dominating the tight exchanges and following further points from play by Keating and Treacy, they struck for a crucial second goal in the 26th minute.
There appeared little danger when O’Brien delivered an innocuous looking high ball from midfield but confusion between McGowran and full-back Eugene Farrell allowed Treacy to show his predatory instincts by sweeping home from eight metres.
James Ryan offered Craobh a glimmer of hope with their first score but Cuala continued to impress up front and four unanswered points in three minutes from Colm O’Farrell, O’Brien, Treacy and a wonderful effort from distance by Conor Gough ensured a massive 16-point (2-13 to 0-3) interval lead.
Two points from placed balls by Ryan after the restart narrowed the margin slightly but there was no stopping the Cuala onslaught with Barron, O’Farrell and Treacy helping themselves to points amidst increasingly loose Chiaráin’s marking.
Their fate was sealed in the 42nd minute when Hudson’s pass was acrobatically caught by Treacy 45 metres from goal and he ran unopposed to shoot home from 10 metres with McGowran blameless as the sliotar rocketed to the bottom right-hand corner of his net.
Treacy and Schutte added a brace of classy points apiece but, to their credit, Craobh continued to show their battling qualities with Ryan tagging on two frees before Warren scored a deserved individual goal, racing in from the right wing before kicking to the net past Stephen Butler after with ten minutes in this encounter.
The game petered out from that point on with Cuala manager Colm Ó Giolláin making a number of substitutions and Keating’s fine point on 56 minutes was the final score of a disappointingly one-sided final with Cuala running out winners by 20 points after delivering a performance of huge maturity and class.
– Diarmuid Geraghty-Evening Herald