Brian Barry reports from Croke Park where Cuala and Na Piarsaigh drew 1-22 to 2-19.
Cuala and Na Piarsaigh met today in Croke Park, in a dream final between the last two winners of the AIB All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship. With the winners set to join an elite club of multiple winners, it was always likely to be a cracker. Those who abstained from watching the rugby in favour of attending Croke Park were well rewarded, as an enthralling tie played out.
In the early exchanges it was a tense affair, as David Treacy and Shane Dowling exchanged frees. The return of Dowling from the start was noticeable in the way the Munster champions pressed, as he made an impact in both attack and defence.
Con O’Callaghan struggled to enjoy any possession under the watchful eyes of Mike Casey.
As the game ebbed and flowed, it was the Limerick outfit who finished the first half stronger, going in 0-08 to 0-06 ahead at the break.
It was Cuala who started the brighter after the break, as two points from the Treacy brothers narrowed the gap. However, Peter Casey stole forward to bury the ball past Sean Brennan, to ensure it was very much advantage Na Piarsaigh.
Dowling then pointed to extend the lead to 1-10 to 0-9 with 25 minutes left. However, that lead was short-lived as five consecutive points from Jake Malone, Seán Treacy, Darragh O’Connell, Colum Sheanon and Nicky Kenny put the men in red in front, 0-14 to 1-10.
The pendulum continued to swing back and forth, as the game hung in the balance. However, when Kevin Downes put two between the teams on 58 minutes, there was a real sense that it wasn’t going to be Cuala’s day.
Dowling pointed a free moments later to make it 1-16 to 0-16, and Cuala needed a goal. Try as they might, there seemed to be no way through the stern Na Piarsaigh defence. However, a 21 yard free was awarded to Colm Cronin, and despite six Limerick men on the goal-line, Seán Moran rattled the net.
GOAL!!! Cuala's Seán Moran brings the game to extra time! pic.twitter.com/BBSbAew7sz
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 17, 2018
Extra-time ensued, and although Con O’Callaghan was held scoreless in normal time, he corrected that just seconds after the ball was thrown in. However, the Munster champions rallied immediately, and David Breen rattled the net from close range.
Mark Schutte and David Treacy hit back, as the pace of the game intensified. However, it was Shane O’Neill’s side who led by one at the break.
After the break, Schutte was left inside on his own, as Cuala fed high balls into the Dublin footballer. However, Cuala couldn’t get their noses in front, as David Dempsey kept Na Piarsaigh ahead.
Con O’Callaghan missed a glaring chance with two minutes left to draw level, but Paul Schutte won a free 64 yards out with 30 seconds on the clock. David Treacy held his nerve to level. O’Callaghan had a chance to win it late on, but his effort dropped short.
After a barnstormer, we’ll be back for a replay.
Cuala: David Treacy 0-12 (0-12 frees), Seán Moran 1-00 (1-00 free), Seán Treacy 0-03, Nicky Kenny 0-01, Darragh O’Connell 0-01, Colum Sheanon 0-01, Colm Cronin 0-01, Seán Treacy 0-01, Con O’Callaghan 0-01, Mark Schutte 0-01.
Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 0-06 (0-04 frees), Peter Casey 1-02, Kevin Downes 0-04, Adrian Breen 0-04, David Breen 1-01, David Dempsey 0-02.
1. Sean Brennan
2. Oisin Gough
3. Cian O’Callaghan
19. Paul Schutte
5. Darragh O’Connell
6. Seán Moran
7. John Sheanon
8. Jake Malone
9. Seán Treacy
10. David Treacy
11. Colm Cronin
12. Colum Sheanon
13. Mark Schutte
14. Con O’Callaghan
15. Nicky Kenny
Shane Stapleton for John Sheanon (48th minute)
Niall Carty for Nicky Kenny (53rd minute)
Cian Waldron for Jake Malone (62nd minute)
Simon Timlin for Seán Treacy (6th minute ET)
Diarmuid O’Flynn for Colm Cronin (9th minute ET)
Seán Treacy for Nicky Kenny (15th minute ET)
1. Podge Kennedy
2. Jerome Boylan
3. Mike Casey
4. Niall Buckley
5. Alan Dempsey
6. Cathal King
7. Kieran Kennedy
8. Shane Dowling
9. William O’Donogue
10. Ronan Lynch
11. David Breen
12. David Dempsey
13. Adrian Breen
14. Kevin Downes
15. Peter Casey
Mike Foley for Niall Buckley (10th minute ET)
Gordon Brown for Jerome Boylan (17th minute ET)
Kevin Ryan for Ciarán Kennedy (20th minute ET)