An injury to Dublin star Paul Schutte in the pre-match warm-up and traffic delays across Dublin meant Cuala had to field an under-strength team at the start of this SHL game against St. Brigid’s in Blanchardstown. This ultimately proved very costly for the Cuala-men who remain second in the Division with one game remaining, but the chasing pack is in hot pursuit!

AHL DIVISION 1 – Wednesday 18th July 2012, Blanchardstown.

CUALA 1 – 10; ST.BRIGIDS 3 – 15

With the hill in their favour and a gale-force wind at their backs, the more determined Blanchardstown outfit, showed far more passion & hunger then their south-side opponents early on, and had registered 2 goals and 2 points within 4 minutes of the start. Cuala started slowly and were slipping and sliding on the greasy surface. It took time for them to get up to the pace of the game. As well as this, Alan Nolan’s huge puck-outs were landing on the Cuala full-back line and putting tremendous pressure on the Dalkey defensive line. Eventually Cuala steadied the ship and began to get into their stride. Scott O’Brien and Bobby Browne started to work their magic around the middle and opened up a few chances. A long delivery into the Brigid’s full-back line was deflected by Seán Treacy into the path of O’Brien who took the ball in his stride and rattled the net from 5 yards out. Seán Barron at right half-forward was winning frees by playing from the front and taking his man on. Barry Connolly’s accuracy from the placed ball brought the lead back to 4 points on 20 minutes. Cuala were now in the ascendency and when Brian Fitzgerald moved onto a loose ball with a clear run on goal, it looked like Cuala would bring the game back to the minimum. But a magnificent goal-line save by full-back and corner-back denied him the prize his efforts deserved and the ball was cleared. It looked now like Cuala could push home their advantage. But Brigid’s wouldn’t roll-over and 5 points in as many minutes saw them restore their healthy lead. A beautiful side-line ball from Connolly who accounted for all of Cuala’s points in the game, meant the teams went in to the break on a score-line of 1-6 to 2-9.

By this stage, the Cuala cavalry had arrived – Shane Stapleton and Rob Reid had to contend with traffic from the Springstein concert! Stapleton replaced Treacy and had an immediate effect on the game. With his hi-octane work-rate he injected great energy into the game and was creating good scoring opportunities for Cuala. But the Blanchardstown backs were keeping a very tight rein on the Cuala forwards and the Dalkeymen found scores very hard to come by. Both Waldron and Fitzgerald were winning ball up front, but in fact it was Brigid’s that got the first 2 points of the second half leaving Cuala now with an even bigger mountain to climb. Again the ‘red & whites’ moved up a gear. Stapleton took a ball on the forty and soled his way right through the Brigid’s defence. He passed to Connolly who whizzed a ball 6 inches past the left-hand upright.  On 50 minutes with time ebbing away, Cuala raised the tempo again searching for a victory. Treacy deflected a ball goal-ward but the ever-vigilant Nolan deflected the ball away to safety; almost immediately, Connolly struck yet another low free goal-ward but again the No.1 denied him; Treacy dropped another one short from 45 yards out. With 5 minutes remaining on the clock, Cuala pushed everyone forward. To turn around a 7 point deficit they had to take more risks. But, as regularly happens in such cases, it was the St. Brigid’s team who broke up field and buried any chances of a revival with a well taken goal from Dublin Minor, Paul Winters. It was now all over bar the shouting. Cuala left the field ruing their slow start and missed scoring opportunities on a final score-line of 1-10 to 3-15.   Best for Cuala: Connolly from placed balls, Gough, Kiely at the back, Waldron, Fitzgerald up front and Stapleton for his effort.

Next up: Critical SHL game against O’Tooles scheduled for Saturday 21st July in Shankill at 18.30. This is the last league fixture for the Senior hurlers and may determine their chance of getting to the top-two play-off for the League title.

Footnote: Winters & Treacy will be representing Dublin in the all-Ireland Minor semi-finals in a few weeks time. Great to see the under-age talent coming through for Dublin!

Cuala: Fintan 0’Brien, Shane Holden, Shane Kiely, Simon Timlin, Adam Hudson, Conor Gough, Oisin Gough, Scott O’Brien (1-0), Bobby Browne, Barry Connolly (0-10, 3 ’65s, 1 sideline, 6 frees), Brian Fitzgerald, Seán Barron, Dan Keating, Cian Waldron, Seán Treacy.

Substitutes: Shane Stapleton for Seán Treacy 30 mins, Rob Reid for Dan Keating (inj.) 40 mins, Seán Treacy for Scott O’Brien (inj.) 45 mins.