Cuala (Dublin) 1-19 St Mullins (Carlow) 1-7
It hasn't been an easy time for Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham lately and the sight of Con O'Callaghan continuing to rip it up for Cuala can't be doing much for his mood.
Another 1-3 from the Dublin footballer, following on from his remarkable 4-3 haul in their previous game, proved significant again and his 39th minute goal was particularly key.
Favourites Cuala led by just four points before that brilliantly volleyed goal and seized on the momentum to tack on more scores and eventually win with plenty to spare.
O’Callaghan, still an U-21, has made it clear he won’t be teaming up with Cunningham’s new look hurling panel anytime soon and will instead continue to bide his time for a breakthrough with Jim Gavin’s football setup.
The former Dublin minor dual player could clearly mix it at a high level. Aside from his scoring feats, he drew fouls which led to bookings for two St Mullins players and also had a hand in a number of scores including the very last of the game, from the excellent Mark Schutte.
It means that the December 4th AIB Leinster club final against O’Loughlin Gaels, an opportunity for Cuala to atone for last year’s final defeat, could be the last major hurling game O’Callaghan plays before focusing on big ball duties again.
"The young lad is going well," said Cuala manager Mattie Kenny. "The last day Con ended up on the end of some nice moves and got some nice goals. Today, I thought it was a good all round performance by himself, and all the forwards. He's contributing well to the team but that's why he's in there. We want everyone to contribute and they are. They're all putting in a good shift for us."
Cuala were on the easier side of the provincial draw so won’t get too much credit for this 12-point win or the 4-16 demolition of Borris-Kilcotton in the quarter-finals.
But Kenny couldn’t ask for much more from his players either and they appear to be getting better with each game.
Sean Treacy had his best game in some time for Cuala in Carlow town, scoring three points and laying on a lot more for those around him, including his brother David who tallied 0-7.
Paul and Mark Schutte were excellent too, the latter winning possession and laying the ball off for O’Callaghan to blast in that crucial goal which appeared to knock the stuffing out of PJ Delaney’s St Mullins.
Initially, St Mullins hinted at building on their dominance of the Carlow championship and led 1-2 to 0-3 at the quarter-hour mark. John Murphy scored a fine goal when he rose above Sean Moran to catch Seamus Murphy's centre and despite falling to his knees managed to blast to the Cuala net.
Marty Kavanagh added a point immediately but the scores dried up for St Mullins after that.
Cuala outscored them 0-6 to 0-1 before half-time and took that momentum with them into the second-half which they dominated.
O’Callaghan opened Cuala’s second-half scoring and then fired that goal and, in all, the Dalkey men hit 1-3 without reply at that stage to put clear daylight between the teams.
Kerry man Darragh O'Connell was on the mark for them as was Colm Cronin and sub Colum Sheanon, much to the delight of the south-Dubliners' colourful and vocal support.
Jack Kavanagh and James Doyle registered two points each for St Mullins in the second-half but that was as good as it got for them. Jack Kavanagh got his marching orders in the 60th minute for a second booking.
“They got scores at crucial times and when they got a purple patch they made full use of it,” reflected St Mullins manager Delaney.
Cuala: S Brennan; S Timlin, Cian O'Callaghan, O Gough; S Moran, J Sheanon, P Schutte; J Malone (0-1), D O'Connell (0-1); C Waldron, C Cronin (0-1), D Treacy (0-7, 5f); S Treacy (0-3), M Schutte (0-2), Con O'Callaghan (1-3). Subs: S Stapleton for Timlin (28-30, blood), Colum Sheanon (0-1) for Waldron (40), Stapleton for John Sheanon (57), R Tierney for S Treacy (57), B Fitzgerald for Cronin (59), N Carty for D Treacy (59).
St Mullins: K Kehoe; G Bennett, J Doran, P Doyle; D Whelan, P Kehoe, G Coady; J Kavanagh (0-2), M Walsh; John 'Minor' Murphy, M Kavanagh (0-2, 1f), John Murphy (1-0); J Doyle (0-3, 1f), S Murphy, J Walsh. Subs: C Kavanagh for John 'Minor' Murphy (h/t), P Connors for Murphy (51).
Referee: P Burke (Kilkenny)