Mon 12th: The introduction of “super-sub” Ger Armstrong turned what looked like a Cuala lost cause into a 2 point victory in this entertaining AHL1 match on a warm, dry evening in Shanganagh Park. Armstrong scored a goal and a point himself, made a second goal with a wonderful pass to Cian Waldren, and forced a penalty in one of the finest displays of corner-forward play seen in the Shankill venue for years. Cuala’s Senior hurlers followed their Junior counterparts last week in providing a magnificent 2nd half display of passion, courage and determination to pull this match out of the fire against a dogged and skilful Crumlin side.

Crumlin came to Shankill looking to secure their third League win on the trot and looked good value for their 2-8 to 1-8 lead at the break. The Blues full-forward Shane Martin, bagged two good goals in the first period and set up a third for the Crumlin corner-forward mid-way through the second half after his shot was saved by goalkeeper Fintan O’Brien in the Cuala nets. In that first period, the Cuala backs looked nervous and uncertain particularly when centre-forward Colm Hennebry began to win clean catches off the Crumlin puck-out and ran on goal. Three excellent points from play and the same number of frees from Eoghan Dunne just kept Cuala in touch. On 15 minutes, Scott O’Brien took a pass from Ryan after good work out on the left, and scored a neat goal from close range. Two long-range efforts from Davy Cunningham & Shane O’Brien in the second quarter kept the red-and-whites in the game but Crumlin were in the ascendancy. It was clear to the many spectators on the line that every-time Cuala got within striking distance, Crumlin could move up-field and take a goal! The goal-minder for Cuala had to pull off two good saves to keep the contest interesting.

On the re-start the tempo of the game increased. Both teams exchanged points and with 40 minutes on the clock, Shane Martin raced clear and drove a shot goal-ward. O’Brien could only parry the ball towards the on-rushing forwards and the Crumlin 13 despatched the rebound to the net. Cuala were now six points in arrears and it looked all over for the Dalkey side. However, it was then the Cuala team showed their real metal! Jon Ryan, Shane Keily and Rob Reid closed the door in the full-back line. Their half-back line of Luke Hand, John Sheanan and Dan Holden began to get to grips with their counter-parts and more ball flowed into the Cuala attack. The two mid-fielders Scott O’Brien and Bobby Browne started winning more ‘dirty’ ball around the middle and the Cuala half-forwards fought for every ball as if their lives depended on it. Davy Cunningham, who in the first period was getting no change form centre-back, John Cullen, began to win ball being pucked out down the centre. The Crumlin defence visibly wilted under the pressure and weak clearances began falling Cuala’s way as he game opened up. Cian Waldren was moved into the corner and Ryan given more freedom on the ’40. But it was the work of Armstrong that finally turned the game Cuala’s way. Having earlier taken a point from loose, scrappy play, he then won a good ball over the head of his defender out on the right and struck an inch-perfect pass to Cian Waldren on the other side of the goal. Waldren caught the ball and made no mistake in rattling the Crumlin net. A few minutes later, Armstrong again won a hard ball in front of goal and was taken down. Referee Dave O’Donovan stretched out his arms and awarded a penalty which Dunne spurned much to the frustration of the Dalkey faithful. Again it looked over for the red-and-whites as Crumlin again began to stretch their lead.

However, Cuala to their eternal credit, never gave up and when Waldren won a ball on the ’40 and turned for goal he had only one thing on his mind. He drew the full-back and hand-passed the ball to Armstrong now on the edge of the square. Armstrong made no mistake despite the attentions of the Crumlin goalie. Ogie Ryan and Shane O’Brien tacked on two more points and the teams were suddenly level with 5 minutes to play. Crumlin tried to regain the initiative but the Cuala backs fought like tigers for every ball. A free was awarded to Cuala for over-carrying after incessant pressure by the defenders and up stepped goalkeeper O’Brien to convert it from all of 80m. Cuala up by one! From the puck-out, and with time running out for Crumlin, John Sheanon won another hard ball in the centre of the defence and delivered a pass to Ogie Ryan who split the posts off his left to leave Cuala up by two. A great score!

Crumlin moved up-field in search of a fourth goal to rescue a game that had been theirs for so long and with 1 minute remaining, Hennebry won a ball and headed for goal. He collided with Holden in what looked like a free to Crumlin 25m out from the Cuala goal. The referee however deemed the collision accidental and awarded an ‘indirect free’ to Crumlin. What followed was almost comical. The Crumlin free-taker could only drive the ball towards goal in the hope that some-one would get a touch on it and deflect it goal-wards. In the event the ball trickled harmlessly to the Cuala defenders who cleared it as the referee brought proceedings to a close.

The win gives Cuala 4 wins out of 8 in the League and leaves them mid-table with Crumlin with three matches remaining – Boden, Lucan and Na Fianna.

The next game between these two teams will be a more tense affair with Cuala having to travel to Pearse Park in the next round of the Senior Hurling Championship scheduled for July 25th.

CUALA 3-17

Fintan O’Brien, Jonathan Ryan, John Sheanan, Rob Reid, Luke Hand, Shane Keily, Dan Holden, Scott O’Brien, Bobby Browne, Shane O’Brien, Davy Cunningham, Cian Waldren, Ogie Ryan, Eoghan Dunne, Rory Doyle

Subs: Ger Armstrong for Rory Doyle (30 mins) SCORERS: E Dunne 0-8 (6 frees), C Waldren 1-1, G Armstrong 1-1, Shane O’Brien 0-2, Scott O’Brien 1-0, O Ryan 0-2, D Cunningham 0-1, L Hand 0-1, F O’Brien 0-1 (1 free)