Dublin, Leinster and All Ireland Champions Cuala weathered the storm against St. Vincents to book their place once again in the Senior Hurling Championship Final.
Colm Cronin, Con O’Callaghan and Jake Malone all raised green flags for the champions, while John Hetherton and Rian McBride did damage for Vincent’s to keep the champs guessing right to the end of full time.
A Hetherton free fired Vincents to a three-point lead inside as many minutes before two quick fire scores for David Treacy got Cuala off the mark in Parnell Park.
Cronin lost the run of himself: his first goal – a flicked finish from close range – gave Cuala a 1-2 to 0-3 lead on six minutes. His second, which arrived just two minutes later, extended that lead to five points – a deficit from which Vincent’s would never quite recover.
A Hetherton penalty kept Vins in touch before a grounded finish by Rian McBride on 22 minutes narrowed the margin to a single score, but Cronin and Treacy kept Vincent’s at arm’s length with scores as half-time approached.
Jake Malone then struck a hammer-blow, both figuratively and literally, to push Cuala out to a 3-8 to 2-7 lead at the break.
Vincents restarted the second half quickly with points from Diarmuid Connolly and two frees from the accurate Hetherton. And there really was nothing between the sides then until Cuala fired themselves for a winning scoring surge over the last ten minutes.
Treacy and Hetherton battled it out from dead balls, and with Cian McBride levelling the game it was all to play for.
Treacy notched another 0-02 onto Cuala’s tally, and O’Callaghan scored one from play, that could very well have dropped just under the crossbar. But a minute later Con made up for that point, firing the ball past Damien Russell from the ground to raise Cuala fourth green flag. A six point game with 7 minutes of normal time remaining.
From here it was Cuala’s big game experience that showed as they closed the game out despite the challenge of Hetherton and Ronan Fallon.