Cuala vs St Brigid’s – Analysis Report

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Cuala 3-14- – 2-15 St Brigids

Cuala had to work harder than many would have expected to secure passage to the semi-finals of this year’s Dublin Senior Hurling Championship.

Rainfall before throw in, paired with the match played an hour earlier, lead to a less than ideal surface as the game began. To say that the weather suited Brigids would do them a disservice, but their ferocious tackling and dominance on breaking ball were certainly magnified by the conditions.

A number of heavy collisions, both legal and illegal, set the tempo in an opening five minutes in which David Treacy and Paul Winters traded frees to open the scoring.

The sixth minute saw Eoghan Dunne pick up a ball in what looked like an unthreatening position in the Cuala corner. Strong running from Dunne, however,  drew enough Cuala defenders to him to allow him to play the ball cleverly across the Cuala goal, where Cian O’Sullivan was able to finish to the net.

The early “getting to know each other” between the two teams came to a head in the ninth minute when John Sheanan from Cuala and Paul Winters from St Brigids were both shown a red card for an off the ball incident. Winters in particular seemed particularly aggrieved by the decision, but the referee, having consulted with his umpires, did not hesitate in dismissing both players.

As the match began to settle down, and with a heavily congested middle third, both sides remained man-on-man all over the pitch. Both teams had essentially three out and out forwards and everyone else covering ground in the middle.

With Cian O’Sullivan appointed to free taking duties in Winters’ absence, and David Treacy starting to score from play, the teams kept pace with each other for the next 10 minutes.

Cuala, playing up the hill, looked for short puck outs as much as they could. However, the slippery conditions and frantic pace set by St Brigids, meant that Sean Brennan took this option less than he usually does.

Alan Nolan in the Brigid’s goal, as ever, was happy to land his puck outs on top of John O’Loughlin and Aodhan McInerney. As the match moved into the second quarter, St Brigids learned, as Crumlin did a fortnight ago, that it’s not advisable to leave Con O’Callaghan one-on-one at full forward.

Donnacha Ryan to his credit, gave a decent account of himself on O’Callaghan, marking him tightly and physically. However, it’s asking a lot of anyone to contain a player of that calibre one-on-one. In the 15th minute, O’Callaghan created a goal chance for himself where it looked like none existed, and drew a fine and brave save from Nolan.

Three minutes later, however, O’Callaghan wouldn’t be denied as he won the ball out in front, turned his man and finished past Nolan in the blink of an eye.

With Cathal Doyle keepong Colm Cronin completely under wraps at centre forward, Cuala were not able to play the ball through their forwards as we’re used to seeing.

O’Sullivan’s free taking efforts kept the scoreboard ticking over for St Brigids as the half drew to a close.

O’Callaghan wasn’t finished for the half, however, as another ball won in front of Ryan, resulted in an even more impressive finish than the first.

After this second goal, Daire Plunkett was deployed in front of O’Callaghan to cut off the threat. Plunkett’s absence around the middle lead to a numerical advantage for Cuala, who then began to operate in their usual sophisticated manner on breaking ball.

St Brigids certainly looked the more impressive team in the first half, yet still trailed by 2-6 to 1-8 at the break. Surely, they would have felt that if they could keep O’Callaghan from winning possession in remotely threatening positions, they could mount a serious assault on Cuala’s title.

Cuala introduced Mark Schutte and Darragh O’Connell at half time. While Schutte, who limped off for the Cuala footballers last week, was not his athletic self, O’Connell made a serious effort at doing an hour’s worth of running in thirty minutes.

The physical nature of the match continued in the second half, with a number of players needing treatment and the referee consulting with his umpires more than once.

As David Treacy, who came up short of his usual high standards from placed balls, in the poor conditions, missed his third free in the 34th minute, the St Brigids faithful became louder and could sense a big upset in the offing.

With Doyle continuing to dominate the centre back/centre forward duel and with O’Loughlin and McInerney’s physicality up front, St Brigids continued to impress.

Their cause was nearly dealt a blow in the 39th minute, when Mark Schutte was brought down in the box. However, David Treacy’s low shot from the penalty drew an exceptional save from Nolan. Treacy pointed the resulting “65” to leave the scores at 2-8 to 1-10 to Cuala.

Cuala would fail to score from play for the next fourteen minutes as St Brigid’s would draw level, and move in front through points from O’Sullivan and McInerney. In fact, Johnny McGuirk’s 50th minute point came after a possible goal chance which would have put proper day light between the teams.

As you’d expect, of course, Cuala remained calm, and as Jake Malone and Seán Moran began to dominate the game from their half back line, they started to reel the challengers in.

Points from Malone and David Treacy pushed the Dalkey side back into the lead. As the game moved into injury time, of which there would be six minutes, Darragh O’Connell launched an attack from deep in this own half. Strong running from O’Connell and Malone and clever play from Mark Schutte, put Seán Treacy one-on-one with Nolan. The younger Treacy remained calm and took his goal well to put clear daylight between the sides.

Further points from Schutte and David Treacy meant that Cuala could withstand a final barrage from St Brigid’s. A high ball into the Cuala box in the 66th minute was doubled on perfectly by a St Brigid’s player to the net. It was difficult to see among the bodies who made the contact but John O’Loughlin and Eoghan Dunne were the most likely candidates. With the gap down to two points, this would be the last action of the match as Cuala’s supporters let out a collective sigh of relief.

St Brigids, with impressive young players like Cian O’Sullivan, Jack O’Neill and Paul Winters, will hope to build on this campaign in the coming years. Meanwhile Cuala march on in search of a historic three in a row.

Cuala: Sean Brennan, Simon Timlin, Cian O’Callaghan, Oisin Gough, Sean Moran (0-1), John Sheanan, Paul Schutte, Cian Waldron, Jake Malone (0-1), Sean Treacy (1-0), Colm Cronin, David Treacy (0-9 5f 1 65), Nicky Kenny (0-1), Con O’Callaghan (2-0), Colum Sheanon Subs : Darragh O’Connell(0-1) (Waldron HT) Mark Schutte(0-1) (Kenny HT) Shane Stapleton (Sheanon 54)

St Brigids: Alan Nolan, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Scanlon, Daire Plunkett (0-1), Jack O’Neill, Cathal Doyle, Eoghan McKeigue, Eoghan Dunne, Ciaran Dolan, Brendan McInerney, Paul Winters (0-1 1f), John O’Loughlin (1-1), Johnny McGuirk (0-2), Aodhan McInerney (0-1), Cian O’Sullivan (1-9 6f 1 65) Subs : David Hawkshaw (Dolan 34) Conor Morris (B McInerney 41)

By Conor Dunne