Slaughtneil 2-11 Cuala 3-21: One dream died and another lives on, with Cuala on the cusp of a first for Dublin hurling after bringing Slaughtneil’s historic treble attempt to a brutal end on Saturday afternoon.
The Derry club, already through to All-Ireland football and camogie deciders, were hoping for an unprecedented hat-trick of final appearances but it proved a bridge too far as Cuala moved closer to becoming the first Dublin club to win an All-Ireland Club SHC title.
Cuala supporters showed their class clapping Slaughtneil’s fatigued dual players off the pitch after they were soundly beaten at the Athletic Grounds. Jubilant winning manager Mattie Kenny acknowledged the magnitude of what Slaughtneil – with 13 of their football team in their ranks – were trying to pull off. But they had no copyright on ambition.
“Both teams were working hard to get to the final for the first time , so it means just as much to our guys as to Slaughtneil,” he said.
“It’s our fairytale too. An All-Ireland final is where they want to be but you’ve got to play the game – not the occasion. You can’t get caught up too much in the fanfare and the excitement. That’s nearly for the supporters and the general public.
“We were fresh today and got a good start but Ballyea are going to be super opposition so we have another big day’s work ahead of us.”
Cuala captain and Dublin star Paul Schutte – one of eight of their players currently in the Dublin hurling squad – should be fit after missing Saturday’s semi-final with a broken finger. He will be back for the final against the Clare and Munster champions in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
There were plenty of positives for Cuala, who routinely shrugged off a 12-week wait since their Leinster final win over O’Loughlin Gaels. They rattled off 1-6 without reply in a 13-minute spell in the first-half to crush Slaughtneil’s hopes.
Cuala were determined not to go the same way as Dublin football champions St Vincent’s and fall victim to Slaughtneil’s momentum.
They made their mark early, Dublin football star Con O’Callaghan starring with 1-3 from play including a spectacular opening goal after 11 minutes, turning onto his left to unleash a fierce shot into the top corner.
Physically stronger, with a sharper touch and a split second quicker to all the breaks, it was one-way traffic as they coasted to a 1-13 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Slaughtneil didn’t perform and although Brendan Rodgers and Se McGuigan hit second-half goals, they got nowhere near to Cuala’s tally.
Their manager Mickey McShane was quick to credit Cuala, but regretted his team’s lack of preparation due to their hectic schedule.
“From first ball to last, the best team was Cuala, but I’m just disappointed that the players didn’t play to the level we know we can play.
“Our touch wasn’t as sharp as theirs, our striking wasn’t as sharp and we were slower to every breaking ball because we did not get enough hurling done. That is the life of a dual club and that is the burden you carry.
“It’s not an excuse, just an observation, and a relevant one.”
Sean Treacy ran through the middle and hit the net in the first minute after the restart to ensure there would be no heroic fightback from Slaughtneil.
“I thought Con had enough scores, so I thought I’d get one myself!” he said.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I can’t quite believe it but we won’t be happy with what we’ve done so far. We’re gunning for that final now.”
His brother David Treacy was unerring from frees, and Niall Carty was one of three Cuala subs to score with a 59th-minute goal to give them a 13-point win that did not flatter them.
Scorers for Slaughtneil:
G Bradley (1-2, 1 free); C O’Doherty 0-5 (2 frees, 1 65); S McGuigan (1-0); C McKaigue, B Rodgers (0-2 each).
Scorers for Cuala:
D Treacy (0-8, 7 frees); Con O’Callaghan (1-3); S Treacy (1-1); N Carty (1-0); C Cronin (0-3); M Schutte, J Malone, C Sheanan, S Moran (0-1 each)
O O’Doherty; C McAllister, K McKaigue, P McNeill; S Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, M McGrath; E Cassidy, G Bradley; B Rodgers, M McGuigan, C McKenna; Se McGuigan, C McKaigue, C O’Doherty
B Cassidy for Mark McGuigan (HT), R McCartney for E Cassidy (43)
S Brennan; O Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S Timlin; S Moran, C Sheanon, J Sheanon; J Malone, D O’Connell; S Treacy, C Cronin, D Treacy; C Waldron, Con O’Callaghan, M Schutte
N Kenny for Waldron (45), N Carty for C Sheanon (52), N Waldron for D Treacy (58), R Tierney for J Sheanon (59), S Stapleton for S Treacy (59).
Colm Lyons (Cork)
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