CUALA (DUBLIN) 2-20 - DICKSBORO (KILKENNY) 1-16: Paul Schutte wasn’t being big-headed ahead of yesterday’s return to provincial duty with Cuala when he stated that getting out of Dublin is always the difficult part for them.
“I said it after Paddy’s Day when we won the All-Ireland - Ballyboden and Kilmacud Crokes were our toughest games all year,” said captain Schutte, whose point was well proven at Parnell Park.
Kilkenny teams traditionally represent the benchmark in the AIB Leinster club hurling championship yet Cuala, who battled through their previous three games in Dublin, won at their leisure.
As if to sum up changing times on the Leinster club scene, Dicksboro manager Mark Dowling admitted afterwards that there was ‘no shame’ in losing to Cuala.
Mattie Kenny’s Cuala only won their first Leinster title last year, just the second by any Dublin club, but look hungry for more.
Con O’Callaghan, their dual star at full-forward, displayed that hunger with an energetic display that yielded 1-3 and the Dublin football sensation had a hand in 2-8 of his team’s overall tally.
O’Callaghan picked up his first football All-Star award on Friday night and was also named Young Player of the Year.
He is the reigning Leinster club Hurler of the Year too, after scoring 6-10 in last year’s competitio, and went through three different Dicksboro markers over the hour or so.
One of those was Cillian Buckley, the experienced Kilkenny defender, who had to be forsaken at centre-back to fire-fight at full-back.
Neither Buckley nor Evan Cody nor Robbie Fitzpatrick could shackle a player who has the physical power to play it rough, and the pace and skill to conjure scoring chance after scoring chance.
By the 16th minute O’Callaghan had scored a point, fired a goal chance just wide and helped to create the game’s opening goal for Jake Malone.
Cuala led 1-4 to 0-2 at that early stage and were always at least four points ahead from there on despite being without Mark Schutte, another marquee forward, who wore a protective boot on his left ankle and sat in the stand.
Boss Kenny addressed suggestions his team might be tired or lack hunger facing into another Leinster campaign: “I’ve been asked that question a number of times and I can’t really understand it,” he said. “Cuala, as a club, had hurling success 23 or 24 years ago. Now, in the last three years, we’re finding ourselves in a position where we’ve won three county titles. Our time has come and we’ve got to take advantage as much as possible.
Cuala’s reward for the win is a semi-final clash with St Martin’s of Wexford on November 19.
Kenny said he didn’t know if Mark Schutte would be back for that game. His absence wasn’t a factor here and Nicky Kenny, who replaced him, scored two fine points.
Dicksboro improved in the second quarter, sharing 12 points evenly with Cuala in that period to leave the hosts 1-10 to 0-8 up at half-time.
Robbie Murphy pointed for Dicksboro after the restart, reducing the margin to four but four Cuala points followed and then O’Callaghan’s 45th-minute goal which all but sealed the win.
For all the special moments he produced in the game, this was the most routine of goals, pucked in from close range after good work down the left by Kenny, Sean Treacy and Malone.
Dicksboro served up a late rally and substitute Stephen Farrell sniped a 57th-minute goal but they didn’t get any closer than five points late on.
Scorers for Cuala:
D. Treacy (0-9, 8 frees); Con O’Callaghan (1-3); J. Malone (1-0); C. Cronin (0-3); N. Kenny and N. Carty (0-2 each); D. O’Connell (0-1).
Scorers for Dicksboro:
S. Stapleton (0-8, 5 frees, 3 65s); S. Farrell (1-0); O. Gough, E. Gough and R. Murphy (0-2 each); M. Gaffney and O. Walsh (0-1 each).
S. Brennan; S. Timlin, Cian O’Callaghan, O. Gough; P. Schutte (c), S. Moran, J. Sheanon; D. O’Connell, S. Treacy; Colum Sheanon, D. Treacy, J. Malone; N. Kenny, Con O’Callaghan, C. Cronin.
N. Carty for Kenny (53); C. Waldron for C Sheanon (55).
D. Holohan; M. Fagan, E. Cody, C. Doheny; T. Kenny, C. Buckley, A. Nolan; O. Walsh (c), R. Fitzpatrick; S. Stapleton, E. Gough, R. Murphy; O. Gough, M. Gaffney, B. Sheehan.
S. Farrell for E Gough (44); K. Kenny for Murphy (44); P. O’Flynn for Nolan (55).
P. Murphy (Carlow).
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