Brian Barry reports from Portlaoise as Cuala and Na Piarsaigh played out another cracker in the AIB All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship final.
Full-time: Cuala 2-17 Na Piarsaigh 1-17
After 80 minutes of pulsating action seven days ago, Cuala and Na Piarsaigh couldn’t be separated in Croke Park. The Dublin and Limerick sides met in Portlaoise again today, as a home for the Tommy Moore Cup over the coming year needed to be arranged.
The first half went just as expected, with the teams going point-for-point, and neither capable of opening a lead bigger than two. It was the Dalkey outfit that went in ahead 0-10 to 0-09 at the break, but Na Piarsaigh’s Adrian Breen was the main threat throughout, scoring four points. His first three came off Oisín Gough, upon which Mattie Kenny recognised the need for change. Paul Schutte then moved across onto the rampant forward, but the captain went down with an apparent hamstring injury as Breen won the ball for his fourth white flag.
Meanwhile, Con O’Callaghan looked more threatening than last week, as he contented with Mike Casey once again.
It was the reigning champions who went in ahead at the break, as points from Mark Schutte, John Sheanon, Con O’Callaghan and a super score from Darragh O’Connell kept them ahead.
Shortly after the break, Mike Casey who had so successfully monitored Con O’Callaghan throughout the tie was called ashore, with Tommy Grimes returning from suspension to replace him.
On 38 minutes, the game changed. Substitute Nicky Kenny pounced on a poor pass from Tommy Grimes in the backs, before placing it past Podge Kennedy. If there was anything opportunistic about the first, the second was pure class, as Mark Schutte stole in along the end line to raise a second green flag in the space of a minute.
Trailing by six points, Na Piarsaigh needed a statement, and fast. Kevin Downes hit a bullet from outside the 21, and while it had Seán Brennan beaten, the crossbar came to the rescue for the Dubliners, as it went over for a point.
However, their answer did come. Points from Adrian Breen and Gordon Brown kept the 2016 champions in touch, and when David Breen got his team’s first sight on goal, he buried it past Brennan to close the gap to one, 2-12 to 1-14.
A super crossfield pass to Peter Casey from Shane Dowling saw the former level the game with six to play, as Cuala saw several of their chances miss the target.
Con O’Callaghan equalised on the stroke of 60 minutes, as four minutes of additional time was announced.
Although Treacy missed a number of frees throughout the game, he had the bottle when it counted, as he pointed frees in the 62nd and 63rd minutes to see Cuala into a two-point lead.
Schutte sent the ball high into the Portlaoise night sky to give Cuala a three-point lead, and that was all she wrote.
After over 140 minutes of epic hurling, it was Cuala who came out on top, 2-17 to 1-17.
Cuala: David Treacy 0-09 (0-07 frees, 0-01 65), Mark Schutte 1-02, Nicky Kenny 1-00, Con O’Callaghan 0-02, Jake Malone 0-01, John Sheanon 0-01, Darragh O’Connell 0-01, Sean Moran 0-01 (0-01 free).
Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 0-05 (0-04 frees), Adrian Breen 0-05, David Breen 1-00, Kevin Downes 0-02, Peter Casey 0-02, Jerome Boylan 0-01, Gordon Brown 0-1, David Dempsey 0-01.
1. Sean Brennan
2. Oisin Gough
3. Cian O’Callaghan
4. Simon Timlin
19. Paul Schutte
6. Seán Moran
7. John Sheanon
9. Seán Treacy
5. Darragh O’Connell
11. Colm Cronin
10. David Treacy
8. Jake Malone
13. Mark Schutte
14. Con O’Callaghan
12. Colum Sheanon
Nicky Kenny for Colum Sheanon (26th minute)
Shane Stapleton for Paul Schutte (28th minute)
1. Podge Kennedy
5. Alan Dempsey
3. Mike Casey
4. Niall Buckley
2. Jerome Boylan
6. Cathal King
7. Kieran Kennedy
9. William O’Donogue
12. David Dempsey
8. Shane Dowling
15. Peter Casey
11. David Breen
13. Adrian Breen
14. Kevin Downes
10. Ronan Lynch
Tommy Grimes for Mike Casey (31st minute)
Conor Boylan for Ronan Lynch (40th minute)
Gordon Browne for Niall Buckley (41st minute)
Mike Foley for Jerome Boylan (59th minute)