Classy Cuala take Leinster crown after another 26-point tally

Cuala (Dublin) 1-23 Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) 1-9: If it wasn’t for Mattie Kenny’s forensic attention to detail, we mightn’t read too much into the curious, 26-point score-lines that his Cuala team has been racking up lately.

The AIB All-Ireland club champions have struck that tally — 2-20, 3-17, and now 1-23 — in each of their three games on the way to back-to-back Leinster titles.

Yesterday’s haul was split evenly over the two halves in Portlaoise — 1-10 followed by 0-13 — reflecting a typically efficient display from a side that rarely fails to deliver.

It’s the first time a Dublin club has won back-to-back titles and may signal a shifting of standards within the province.

Dublin clubs have typically played second fiddle to sides from Kilkenny, Wexford, and Offaly, in Leinster, but Cuala beat the champions of those three counties on the way to this win, and without breaking a sweat.

This 14-point win was all but sewn up by the 18th minute, when the Dalkey side led 1-8 to 0-0, after a blitzkrieg opening that included 1-2 from Con O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan didn’t do much of note after those early scores, and had four failed point attempts in the second-half, but, in his defence, he seemed to be unable to muster much enthusiasm for a game that was already won.

“We went after that first quarter,” said Kenny. “We said that we wanted to set the tempo and we got the few early scores. We missed a few, as well; they defended well. Con, for example, was in for a goal early on, but they got back on him very, very quickly. But we kept building up the scores and that first-quarter lead gave us an advantage that we were able to take into the second-half.”

Conor Mahon gave Kilcormac-Killoughey, champions in 2012 and All-Ireland finalists in 2013, hope with a 26th minute goal, but this was extinguished minutes later, when he was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident involving Oisin Gough.

Cuala led 1-10 to 1-2 at half-time and goalkeeper, Sean Brennan, saved a penalty from Ciaran Slevin in the 38th minute, before outscoring the Offaly side by seven points in the final quarter to win at their leisure. Again.

They will return to action on February 10, for an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Liam Mellows.

The new Galway champions at least have a couple of months to come up with a plan for O’Callaghan.

The newly crowned football All-Star, who has won virtually every competition he’s been involved in this year, has had the freedom of Leinster in recent weeks.

Admittedly, he was bottled up with his first goal attempt, early on here, and had plenty of attention from the St Martin’s defence in the first-half of their semi-final tie.

But he’s always found a way of breaking clear for long enough to grab the big scores that turn games.

Ger Healion was assigned to O’Callaghan yesterday and looked in trouble from early on. O’Callaghan slipped his man on the left wing, after 12 minutes, having latched onto a long delivery from the excellent Sean Moran and banged in his third goal in three games.

The Kilcormac-Killoughey management responded by changing markers and then leaving Healion as a sweeper, in front of O’Callaghan, but the All-Ireland football final goalscorer danced away for back-to-back points that put his team 1-8 to 0-0 ahead.

With Mark Schutte still absent — he didn’t feature at all in Leinster, due to an ankle injury — Colum Sheanon got a chance in attack and scored three points.

Two of those came early on, with the excellent Colm Cronin making the same contribution.

It was looking like the Offaly men might suffer the ignominy of going the entire half without a score, until they burst briefly into life.

Ciaran Slevin drew ironic applause with a pointed free, and then Mahon was red-carded, just before the interval, for interfering with Gough’s face guard.

Suddenly, Kilcormac-Killoughey were down to 14 men, down by eight points, and chasing the Leinster and All-Ireland holders.

They just couldn’t get the goal they needed and when Slevin had his penalty brilliantly saved by a flying Sean Brennan, following a foul on Dan Currams, the writing was on the wall. The same player, Slevin, was at the end of another fine move, minutes later, but was bottled up as Cuala cleared their lines.

Kilcormac-Killoughey, in all, outscored Cuala by 1-7 to 0-6 in a 25-minute period spanning either side of the interval. The three-in-a-row Dublin champions played a clever game of soaking up the pressure and biding their time, though, before closing-out the encounter.

Scorers for Cuala:

D. Treacy (0-10, 9 frees, 1 ‘65); Con O’Callaghan (1-2); C. Cronin, C. Sheanon (0-3 each); D. O’Connell (0-2, 1 free); C. Waldron, J. Malone, B. Fitzgerald (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kilcormac-Killoughey:

C. Slevin (0-5, 3 frees, 1 65); Conor Mahon (1-0); P. Geraghty (0-2); D. Currams, T. Geraghty (0-1 each).

CUALA:

S. Brennan; O. Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S. Timlin; P. Schutte, S. Moran, J. Sheanon; D. O’Connell, S. Treacy; C. Cronin, D. Treacy, J Malone; C. Sheanon, Con O’Callaghan, N. Kenny.

Subs:

C. Waldron for Schutte (22); B. Fitzgerald for Kenny (44); N. Carty for D. Treacy (56); R. Tierney for O’Connell (59); S. Stapleton for Con O’Callaghan (59).

KILCORMAC-KILLOUGHNEY:

Conor Slevin; K. Leonard, G. Healion, J. Quinn; K. Grogan, D. Kilmartin, E. Grogan; T. Geraghty, Ciaran Slevin; J. Gorman, C. Mahon, P. Geraghty; S. Leonard, P. Healion, D. Currams.

Subs:

A. McConville for P Healion (45); J. Geraghty for Gorman (53); C. Quinn for S. Leonard (57); B. Leonard for G. Healion (59); Cathal Mahon for Quinn (60).

Ref:

S. Cleere (Kilkenny).


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