By Paul Keane
Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) 2-13 Cuala (Dublin) 0-13
A strong start in Carlow proved far more than just half the battle for Oulart-The Ballagh who went on to finally capture the AIB Leinster Club Hurling title that the club has craved.
The Wexford champions capitalised on the strong wind early on to build up an eight-point half-time lead and after four previous final losses between 2010 and 2013, they weren't going to let slip another great opportunity.
Goals from Tomas Dunne and Garrett Sinnott ultimately proved decisive with Sinnott's arriving for Oulart in the 44th minute and putting them 12 points clear.
Even playing into the strong breeze late on, they weren't going to relinquish that big advantage and managed to hold firm in the face of a strong Cuala finish.
Oulart's maiden provincial win means they will progress to face Na Piarsaigh of Limerick and Munster in the February 6 All-Ireland semi-finals.
Oulart carried years of hurt into this decider with six final failures from their six attempts, a tale of woe stretching back to the early 1990s.
The Wexford men were particularly frustrated to lose to considerable underdogs Mount Leinster Rangers of Carlow in the 2013 decider.
They failed to advance beyond the quarter-final of the Wexford championship last year but regrouped to regain the county title this year.
They were delighted to enter their latest provincial final as underdogs themselves against a Cuala side bang on form.
The Dalkey outfit impressed when picking up a first Dublin title in 21 years before accounting for the Offaly and Kilkenny champions in Leinster.
Oulart hit the ground running at the Carlow venue though and moved into a 1-7 to 0-2 half-time lead.
They were aided by a strong wind though and took advantage of it to launch over a number of points from distance including an 85 metre free by Nicky Kirwan.
That 25th minute score was Kirwan's second point and with Tommy Storey firing over three also, Oulart led 0-7 to 0-2.
They perhaps needed a greater advantage going into the second-half given the strength of the wind and duly grabbed a priceless goal before half-time.
Tomas Dunne was the finisher though county midfielder David Redmond did brilliantly with a surging run and clever hand pass into space.
Oulart enjoyed a strong third quarter also and the game was effectively decided in this period as Cuala went 25 minutes without a score between the 13th and 38th minutes.
Cuala gifted Oulart a second goal in the 44th minute when goalkeeper Sean Brennan spilled a long free in and Sinnott took advantage with a close range kick in, nudging them 2-10 to 0-4 ahead.
Cuala did play their best hurling from then on and David Treacy finished with 10 points but it was too little, much too late.
Scorers for Oulart-The Ballagh: N Kirwan 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1 65), T Dunne 1-1, T Storey 0-3, G Sinnott 1-0, D Mythen 0-2, D Redmond and E Moore 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cuala: D Treacy 0-10 (0-7f), C O'Callaghan 0-2, S Treacy 0-1
Oulart-The Ballagh: C O'Leary; B Kehoe, K Rossiter, E Moore (0-01); P Roche, S Murphy, K Sheridan; D Redmond, M Jacob; R Jacob, T Dunne, T Storey; D Mythen, G Sinnott, N Kirwan.
Subs: D Morton for M Jacob 51, P Murphy for T Dunne 54, P Sutton for Sinnott 60.
Cuala: S Brennan; S Timlin, C O'Callaghan, J Sheanon; R Tierney, O Gough, S Moran; J Malone, D O'Connell; C O'Callaghan, C Cronin, C Waldron; D Treacy, M Schutte, S Treacy.
Subs: C Sheanon for Moran 23, N Kenny for C Sheanon 45.
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).