A tough, uncompromising, hi-quality game came right down to the wire where either side could have taken the honours in a hugely entertaining game played in perfect conditions in Shankill. Cuala’s plan to deliver ball into the inside forwards created a lot of opportunity, but the Dearg defence was a much meaner outfit than was expected, and Cuala couldn’t pick their pockets for a goal. A pass from Simon Cullen to Ogie Ryan was the pick of the opportunities in the first half but the ball fell left and wide. In retrospect, clipping over the points instead of continually going for goal would have been the better option, but it’s easy to say that after the event! Denis Monaghan was excellent from start to finish and hardly put a foot wrong. Jack McCarthy and Alex Brock had control of things around midfield and Ed Monaghan was winning his battle at right-half forward particularly in the first period. But the country boys from Realt Dearg are a tidy team. Their guile and pace was always a cause for concern, but they also had a lot of wides. In fairness to Cuala, they put huge pressure on them at every stage in the game. Rory Doyle, Danial Holden and John Dillon were constantly blocking and hooking their opposite numbers and never let them settle. On 17 minutes Simon Cullen eventually got through the stout Dearg defence with a kicked goal. Cuala upped their game again and took another three points from Eoghan Dunne and Ciarán McDermott to put Cuala 1-6 to 0-4 up with 6 minutes remaining in the half. However, just as the oranges were being peeled for the half-time interval, a long delivery from Realt Dearg went through the whole defence and bounced into the net. It should have been a ‘meat-and-drink’ clearance. Dearg clipped over another from play and frustratingly for Cuala the sides went in on a score-line of 1-6 to 1-7, Dearg one up!

It was nip and tuck in the second half. Dearg went ahead by three only for Dylan Kennedy’s great goal on 40 minutes. He latched onto a loose ball, tore straight through the heart of the Dearg defence and buried a shot to the net. Level match 2-9 to 1-12. 6 minutes later it was Dearg’s turn to rattle the net. A mix up at the back gave Dearg an overlap and some slick passing left their full-forward clear on goal.  Fintan O’Brien had no chance. Again Cuala responded and took back three in a row with Conor Ennis and Eoghan Dunne converting. A monster free from 80m was landed by Fintan O’Brien and Cuala’s frayed nerves were beginning to settle again, but not for long. With 5 minutes to go on Derek Oman’s watch, Cuala were leading by 2, but it never looked safe. In a flash, Realt Dearg’s centre forward outpaced the Cuala defence and took a point from distance to cut the lead to the minimum. Dearg took another almost immediately to level the game. With time almost out and in a panic to get the winner, the Cuala forwards battled to win the puck out. Their eagerness led to a free from 75m for Dearg to take the win. The keeper converted it and the Dearg line went ballistic calling on the ref to ‘blow it up’. However, Oman played on. Cuala had two further chances to level matters. Great work from Conor Ennis and Ciarán McDermott led to a pass to Daragh Connolly. His snap-shot from 50m drifted agonizingly right and wide. Two minutes into extra time Dylan Kennedy was upended in mid-field and a free was awarded to Cuala. With time draining away, in the race to take it, the ball again went right and agonizingly wide. A Realt Dearg win by the minimum.

Despite the one point loss, the 3rd Team hurlers remain top their Group in the round-robin series of games with one round remaining, but Realt Dearg and St. Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh now join them there. The top four in each of the two Groups will play each other at the quarter-final stage.


Footnote 1: Many thanks to Ciarán in the Druid’s Chair for the sandwiches and sausages after the game. Most of the team gathered together afterwards to discuss tactics for the next outing. A great session!

Next up: 3rd Team Hurlers play the final game in the Championship round-robin against St. Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh away on Thursday 17th July, followed quickly by a League game on Sunday 20th July against Kilmacud Crokes away. Scoil Ui Chonaill have conceded the game scheduled for Sunday 6th July.

Cuala Team: Canice Dowling, Denis Monaghan, Colmán O’Drisceóil, Eoghan Dalton, Rory Doyle, Danial Holden, Alex Brock, Jack McCarthy, Ed Monaghan (0-2), Dylan Kennedy(1-0), Ciarán McDermott (0-2), Ogie Ryan, Eoghan Dunne (0-7, 4 frees 1’65 ), Simon Cullen (1-0). Substitutes: Fintan O’Brien (0-1, free) for Ceannas Dowling (30 mins.), Shane O’Brien for Eoghan Dalton (30 mins.), Conor Ennis for John Dillon (35 mins.), Darragh Connolly for Simon Cullen (45 mins.), Conor Bass, Fintán Portéir, Briain O’Mhurchu, Michael Kennedy, Anthony Higgins, Jack Butler, Eamonn Drumgoole.  Wides: Cuala had 7 wides first half and 7 second half; Realt Dearg had 8 first half and 8 second half.

3rd Hurlers V Realt Dearg