If containing Tony Kelly was the key to Cuala taking control of the All-Ireland final against Ballyea, John Sheanon was the locksmith.
The new champions' game plan was to allow their forwards take care of Clare's dynamic former Player of the Year when he dropped back into defence and in more threatening positions, to have Sheanon and later Jake Malone keep him claustrophobic company.
“The lads will laugh,” said Sheanon. “I wouldn’t be the most skilful hurler myself, and I’d be the first to hold my hand up but I’ve been asked to do that job since the first game, since we played Crokes in Dublin.
“I’ve no problem doing it, I probably wouldn’t get into the team if I didn’t do that man-marking job, it’s an incredible team and to be honest, when I was told I was marking Chrissy McKaigue the last day or Tony Kelly today – I have belief in myself.
“He’s an incredible hurler, but I got a bit of luck today – he hit the post with his first ball, and he could have scored with his second chance. I got lucky but I’m delighted. It’s a team game, as we said before the game and myself and Jake Malone were switching a bit but I was just delighted to get into the team.”
He and Malone not only kept their illustrious marker scoreless but scored 1-1 themselves.
Manager Mattie Kenny from Galway said that he wouldn't make any decision on his future with the club for another week or so, as the level of the achievement sank in. He praised his team's resilience and willingness to learn.
“Your character is being tested the whole time and that’s the thing that I’m most pleased with, the way these guys are developing as a team. You’ve got to understand that you’re going to have periods of dominance and the opposition is going to have periods of dominance and it’s how you manage the opposition’s periods of dominance that defines the result as much as anything else.”
For Kenny's Ballyea counterpart Robbie Hogan, this has been a season of firsts: county title and Munster championship but he already had them walking into Croke Park. He praised Cuala as the better team but had no ready answer for what had happened his side.
“I don’t know, they weren’t nervous coming up. I just don’t know. We prepared as best we could, just again the little things that went our way all year just avoided us today really. Maybe nerves did play a part.”