SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY OFF – SUNDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2013, O’TOOLE PARK,
CUALA 4-12; NAOMH FIONBARRA 1-5
Mark Schutte, it seems, just can’t stop scoring! He took 4-2 in the Senior Football Championship against St. Marys, Saggart last week. This week he bagged three more goals in the first half against Naomh Fionnbarra this time in Hurling Championship action – some achievement for the dual star!
Three weeks ago, Cuala were only two points away from qualifying for the next round of the Senior Hurling Championship, but today the team was staring relegation in the face. They had to win against Naomh Fionnbarra to remain in the Championship next year. Finbarrs had the same challenge.
Conditions were deplorable – heavy rain and a strong wind down the pitch to the road-end. Cuala opted to play with the gale. Barrs opened with a point; Cuala took a free. On 9 minutes Schutte took his first goal. The ball broke nicely for him and he dispatched it without any fuss. Cronin, Connolly and Treacy took three sweet points before, on 15 minutes, Schutte took his second. Again the play left him clear on goal and he took the chance with aplomb. Treacy and Fitzgerald took another two points from play before Gough hit a monster free from well within his own half. 2-7 to 0-3 and Finbarrs were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Connolly and Treacy took two more points before the net rattled again as Schutte stole in for his hat-trick. He was unstoppable. 3-9 to 0-3 at the break and Naomh Fionnbarra had a mountain to climb.
After the break Cronin and Waldren kept the score-board moving for Cuala as Fionnbarra resorted to trying for goals. Paul Schutte, together with O’Giolláin and Tierney, absorbed everything they threw at them and efficiently cleared their lines. But the pressure like the wind and rain was relentless. 11 minutes into the second half and Finbarrs missed a clear goal chance. To add insult to injury, Butler stopped a penalty and on 14 minutes Fitzgerald raced in on goal and scored the fourth Cuala goal. The Barrs goalkeeper struck him in frustration and was lucky not to have gone for an early shower! Cuala brought Treacy back as sweeper and emptied their bench half-way through the half. With 6 minutes remaining, Finbarrs got a consolation goal as two Cuala players went for the same ball and it fell favourably for the forward. But the ever-growing mountain was too high to climb; Cuala and Naomh Fionnbarra left the field of play on a final score-line of 4-12 to 1-5.
Footnote 1: Faughs saw off the challenge of Na Fianna in the other relegation battle, which means that Naomh Fionnbarra next take on Na Fianna with the losers dropping to the B Championship in 2014. Cuala now go into hibernation for the winter to re-build for 2014.
Footnote 2: Great to see both Jamie Brennan and Niall O’Dowd back on the Cuala bench after long-term injuries. Commiserations to John Sheanan who appears to have picked up a serious knee injury while playing with the senior footballers last week.
Team: Stephen Butler, Ross Tierney, Paul Schutte, Conall O’Giolláin, Shane Stapleton, Oisin Gough (0-1, free), Simon Timlin, Colm Cronin (0-2), Bobby Browne, Brian Fitzgerald (1-1), David Treacy (0-3), Barry Connollly (0-4; 3 frees), Mark Schutte (3-0), Cian Waldren (0-1), JJ Ryan.
Substitutes: Scott O’ Brien, Davy Cunningham, Rob Reid, Dan Keating, Jack Phelan (all introduced after 45 mins.)
Wides: Cuala had 7 wides in the first half and 4 in the second period; Fionnbarra had 3 in the first half and 7 in the second.