Oulart-The Ballagh claim maiden Leinster triumph at Cuala’s expense

Tomas Dunne and Garrett Sinnott goals either side of half-time prove crucial

One of the GAA's great crusades finally attained fulfilment at Netwatch Cullen Park in Carlow yesterday as Oulart-The Ballagh landed the AIB Leinster club hurling title for the first time after six fruitless finals, including four of the most recent five.

A resolute and painstaking assembly of scores when playing with a big wind in the first half was complemented by two killer goals either side of the break.

This left the favourites Cuala with too much ground to make up even though the Dublin champions frantically closed the gap in the last quarter, with David Treacy locating his A game and firing over a succession of points.

If they think about it at all the Wexford side will experience a queasy feeling of recognition at the sight of a hotly tipped team failing to find their best form in the final but it will reinforce their conviction that this was one glittering prize for which a lot of dues had been paid.


“It’s brilliant,” was the post-match reaction of Oulart’s Keith Rossiter, who at the far end of a fine career had reached the promised land.

“That feeling is unbelievable after four Leinster final defeats – that’s a fair achievement for any team to come back. We’ve been called Oulart The Bottlers; we’ve been called everything. That’s just the best day of my life so far.”

Yet it was Cuala who looked the more anxious team. Their conservative set-up with its defensive orientation even as the match ebbed away marked then as the ones apparently paralysed by the fear of losing.

Oulart, on the other hand, rattled into the match, pressed for scores. Crucially, at the start of the second half and having compiled an eight-point lead, they refused to sit on that advantage but continued to push.

The defence, especially the old heads Rossiter and Paul Roche, was patient and calm, refusing to sacrifice shape despite the paucity of opposition attackers. At centrefield they were energetic – David Redmond outstanding – and the forwards bristled with have-a-go enthusiasm.

Attacking moves

Tommy Storey

picked off three first-half points by cleverly drifting into space and making himself available for the ball carrier, while Des Mythen was sharp in maintaining attacking moves.

It looked for most of the first half as if Cuala’s caution might be paying dividends. Oisín Gough positioned himself as sweeper and they coped with Oulart’s pressure, trailing by just 0-2 to 0-5 10 minutes before half-time.

Warning signs were there, however, for Cuala. To play such a deep-lying game requires that clearances are pinpoint-precise and that what chances arise are taken.

Neither was happening, and too often the massed defence squandered hard-won possession by hitting the ball randomly up the field where chances were that a red and black jersey would be on hand to reclaim it.

Con O’Callaghan opened promisingly but had a couple of wides and David Treacy missed a free, normally within his compass.

Serious blow

Then in injury time the first serious blow landed on Cuala. At 0-2 to 0-7 the Dublin side looked in reasonable shape on the scoreboard considering the strength of the wind but a surging run by Redmond set up Tomás Dunne to finish to the net and set a more formidable target at half-time.

Rossiter agreed that Oulart had been in charge of the match all the way through.

“I think we were. We got our tactical battle right. We were in control, yeah; we showed it. I suppose the 1-7 at half-time and it could have been more really because we missed two or three open goals. The goal was massive. We’d been knocking on the door for a goal and we deserved it, and we worked hard for it. I think we deserved that lead at half-time and defended it well in the second half.”

That defence was initially based on attack. Cuala needed a bright start but it was Oulart who scored twice in the opening minutes: Rory Jacob set up Nicky Kirwan for a point and Garrett Sinnott did the same for Dunne.


By the time the favourites began to hurl with any urgency they trailed by 12 points after Sinnott had capitalised on a ball spilled by goalkeeper Seán Brennan to kick in a second goal.

Strangely Cuala continued to keep men back even though they desperately needed scores, and for a team that had been prolific goal-scorers up until the final they did not create a single chance. They were oddly reluctant to harness the wind to drop ball in on Mark Schutte.

Although Treacy caught fire and with six minutes left the lead was down to five, 2-11 to 0-12, they never quite got the margin down to the sort of level where Oulart’s nightmares might recur.

“It was difficult; they had two or three extra defenders protecting the goal,” said Cuala manager Mattie Kenny.

“In conditions like today it’s nearly easier to protect a lead than go after it, they limited us to long-range shooting. We got four or five points in a row there but the goals were killer blows.

“Days like today you don’t see too many positives, the disappointment is huge, but these guys are a young bunch of players and the average age of that team is 22 or 23. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for them and they can build on this.”

Oulart will play Na Piarsaigh in the All-Ireland semi-final on February 6th.

OULART-THE BALLAGH: C O'Leary; B Kehoe (capt.), K Rossiter, E Moore (0-1); P Roche, S Murphy, K Sheridan; D Redmond (0-1), M Jacob; R Jacob, T Dunne (1-1), T Storey (0-3); D Mythen (0-2), G Sinnott (1-0), N Kirwan (0-5, three frees, 65). Subs: D Morton for M Jacob (51 mins), P Murphy for Dunne (54 mins), P Sutton for Sinnott (60 mins).

CUALA: S Brennan; S Timlin, Cian O'Callaghan, J Sheanon; R Tierney, O Gough (capt.), S Moran; J Malone, D O'Connell; Con O'Callaghan (0-2), C Cronin, C Waldron; S Treacy (0-1), M Schutte, D Treacy (0-10, seven frees). Subs: C Sheanon for Moran (22 mins), N Kenny for C Sheanon (45 mins). Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times