Cuala strike late to send All Ireland hurling final to replay
A superb tussle at Croke Park saw the two best teams in country fail to be separated
Cuala’s Sean Treacy and Cian Waldron celebrate as their side score a late goal to send the game to extra-time. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho
Cuala 1-22 Na Piarsaigh 2-19
The AIB club hurling final’s recent reputation for one-sided encounters was comprehensively redeemed with an immense tussle at Croke Park between All-Ireland champions Cuala and their predecessors Na Piarsaigh that will go to a replay.
David Treacy’s flawless free taking, which had sustained Cuala throughout, proved the lifeline in the last minute of extra-time to snatch a draw for the Dalkey club and keep alive their hopes of back-to-back titles after David Dempsey’s 74th-minute point looked to have defined this year’s champions.
Na Piarsaigh will be hugely disappointed. They had played the final on the front foot for most of the 80 minutes once a nervy start had been put behind them. They led by three, 1-16 to 0-16 in the last minute of normal time when, in Cuala’s frantic press for a score, Colm Cronin was fouled for a free, which Seán Moran managed to drive high into the net off goalkeeper Podge Kennedy’s stick.
Shane Dowling, who posed plenty of problems otherwise, had put a chance for the insurance of a four-point lead wide off a free just before the fateful last passage of play.
Both sides were fatigued in extra time but again the Limerick club had the initiative, having seen David Breen two minutes into extra time go through for a goal but Cuala clawed a way back, getting scores from Mark Schutte and frees from Treacy to stay in contention.
The predicted central issue of Na Piarsaigh’s more varied attack against the champions’ reliance on Con O’Callaghan never really came to pass but for unusual reasons. Mike Casey marked him well and although he drew three converted frees, O’Callaghan didn’t score himself until extra time and ended the match with just a point.
Na Piarsaigh did showcase their attacking quality with all six forwards getting on the scoreboard and the starting full forwards, scoring 1-9 between them but they had to work hard for their scores in the face of a committed defensive display.
Yet the final had started encouragingly for the Dublin champions. They counter-attacked at pace and by the end of the first quarter led by 0-4 to 0-1 with frees from Treacy, a point from his brother Seán who was lively at centrefield and ended with three points from play and Colm Cronin.
Their defence was also well on top and had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate their superiority, as Na Piarsaigh had plenty of possession.
Although listed as a replacement, Paul Schutte started and together with Oisín Gough and Cian O’Callaghan, was tight and disruptive. Despite playing with a strong – and Arctic – wind, the Limerick side took a while to get into their stride and find some accuracy.
Once settled, they made inroads on the lead, out-scoring their opponents by 0-7 to 0-2 in the second quarter for a half-time lead of 0-8 to 0-6.
But the Limerick champions were now settling and in the fourth minute of the second half, Peter Casey got in for their first goal. Cuala had to chase the match and for the remainder of the third quarter they achieved that, wresting back the lead in the 43rd minute after an impressive spell had yielded points from both Treacys, Jake Malone, Colm Sheanon and Nickey Kenny, whose point to push them ahead at 0-14 to 1-10 could have been turned into a goal chance.
As in the first half, Na Piarsaigh rallied and when they reasserted their control they looked almost certain winners. Their defence crowded out the champions and Alan Dempsey was full of running carrying from the back.
Although the score teetered on one-point margins, the Limerick champions pulled away in the closing minutes with points from Dowling’s free, Adrian Breen and an exceptional long-distance strike from the impressive Kevin Downes.
They must have thought that that they were seconds away from winning the title, whose 2018 destination will remain a mystery until the CCCC fixes the replay. Already Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neill has called for it to take place next week whereas his Cuala counterpart Matty Kenny said that it should be back in Croke Park.
CUALA: S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, P Schutte (capt.); J Sheanon, S Moran (1-0, free), D O’Connell (0-1); C Sheanon (0-1), S Treacy (0-3); J Malone (0-1), C Cronin (0-1), D Treacy (0-12, all frees); N Kenny (0-1), Con O’Callaghan (0-1), M Schutte (0-1). Subs: S Stapleton for J Sheanon (48 mins), N Carty for Kenny (53 mins), C Waldron for Malone (62 mins), N Kenny for Carty (extra time), J Malone for Waldron (extra time), S Timlin for S Treacy (66 mins), D O’Flynn for Cronin (69 mins), S Treacy for Kenny (75 mins).
NA PIARSAIGH: P Kennedy; A Dempsey, M Casey, J Boylan; N Buckley, C King (capt.), K Kennedy; R Lynch, W O’Donoghue; S Dowling (0-6, four frees), D Breen (1-1), D Dempsey (0-2); A Breen (0-4), K Downes (0-4), P Casey (1-2). Subs: M Foley for Buckley (71 mins), G Brown for Boylan (77 mins), K Ryan for Kennedy (80 mins).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).