Many will discuss the significance of this victory for Dublin hurling as Cuala became the first senior side from the county to claim the Leinster throne since Crumlin in 1979. But there was a distinctly personal feeling about this feat in O’Moore Park.
Afterwards, manager Mattie Kenny was asked what it meant for Dublin. “Our thoughts are only on Cuala but it’s obviously going to give a lift to all the clubs in Dublin. I’m up in Dublin for the last number of years. To win a Dublin championship is a very difficult one. There are four, five, six top teams. Any one of them could have done what we did today.”
It was understandable that Kenny would be keen to focus on the club. What this result means for Cuala, the home of the great Holden family, is enormous but frightening for Dublin manager Ger Cunningham who must do without them for at least the early part of their Division 1A campaign having already lost a glut of experienced players to retirement.
Cunningham would dearly love to have his hands on Con O’Callaghan who lit up Portlaoise with a splendid exhibition of forward play. His expected promotion to Jim Gavin’s starting team will also have to wait until the late spring as Cuala face Slaughtneil in early February.
“Con is an equally good footballer as he is a hurler, he’s a very good hurler,” said Kenny. “His angles of running are very good. I said after the game against Kilcotton, the deliveries to him are exceptional; we are working a lot on that. It’s the quality of the ball and the quality of that speed and service to him is good.”
Kenny added: “I don’t want to be concentrating too much on Con but the young fella has a great future ahead of him sporting-wise.”
Cuala led here from start to finish, restricting the opposition to just 1-5 from play in total and should have been out of sight inside the first 14 minutes. Colm Cronin goaled in the 7th minute when a strong O’Callaghan run gave him the necessary platform but another couple should have followed soon after.
Sean Treacy’s 11th-minute scooped shot was easily negotiated by O’Loughlin Gaels’ goalkeeper Stephen Murphy as was David Treacy’s attempt three minutes later. Cronin hit the post in the follow-up but Cuala at least made each attack count with points.
Their industry in attack was causing the Kilkenny champions plenty of headaches. Although O’Callaghan was a constant presence at the edge of the square, the rest of the forward line moved from position to position. Brian Hogan had at least two markers inside the opening five minutes. Conventional Cuala weren’t.
They led 1-5 to 0-2 after the first quarter and went seven points up when O’Callaghan finished off a move involving the Treacy brothers and Cronin. O’Loughlin Gaels recovered well from it, Mark Bergin’s frees keeping them in the fray. They had reduced the margin to five points by the break, 2-8 to 0-9.
Seven minutes into the new half and O’Loughlin Gaels had narrowed the difference to three points, Bergin’s sharpshooting proving to be their best tool. Martin Comerford was causing Oisín Gough difficulty but Murphy was called on again at the other end to deny Cronin a second goal.
Murphy made three saves in the space of a few seconds, thanks to Mark Schutte in the 42nd minute, before Cuala regained the initiative. A Daragh O’Connell point was followed by a David Treacy brace, one a fine sideline strike against the wind.
A 10th converted free by Bergin cut the gap to five but O’Loughlin Gaels were hit for another three scores in succession, one of them a peach of a long-range free from midfielder O’Connell. The contest was well and truly Cuala’s even if Loughnane did find the net with two minutes left.
Treacy resumed normal service with a pointed free in injury time and Schutte delivered the coup de grace just when it appeared he was content to knock over another insurance point. It was slick and in keeping with a most appealing display of hurling.
D. Treacy (0-11, 9 frees, 1 sideline); C. O’Callaghan (1-4); M. Schutte (1-1): C. Cronin (1-0); D. O’Connell (0-2, 1 free); C. Waldron (0-1).
M. Bergin (0-11, 10 frees); D. Loughnane (1-0); M. Comerford (0-2); A. Geoghegan, S. Murphy (free), M. Kelly (0-1 each).
S. Brennan; O. Gough (c), C. O’Callaghan, S. Timlin; S. Moran, P. Schutte, J. Sheanan; J. Malone, D. O’Connell; S. Treacy, C. Cronin, C. Waldron; M. Schutte, C. O’Callaghan, D. Treacy.
C. Sheanon for C. Waldron (53).
S. Murphy; A. Forristal, A. Kearns, E. Kearns; A. O’Brien, B. Hogan (c), H. Lawlor; P. Butler, P. Deegan; A. Geoghegan, M. Kelly, D. Loughnane; S. Johnston, M. Bergin, M. Comerford.
S. Mahony for A. Kearns (27); P. Cantwell for P. Butler (h-t); S. Bolger for S. Johnston (41).
M. Murtagh (Westmeath)