A ‘Hawk-eye’ point  in the first half and a lost goal chance in the dying embers of this game were the main talking points in this wonderfully entertaining U15 League match played in perfect conditions in Thomastown.

The Northside visitors needed a win to avoid the drop to Division 2; Cuala were mid-table and wanted a strong team performance in preparation for their Championship match with Na Fianna on Sunday.

The cupboard was bare for Cuala. Ten of their starting panel were sunning themselves abroad.  But it didn’t matter a whit! Finbarr sent out the call and the soldiers rallied to the flag. Up they marched: Power, Rellis & Newman; Molumphy, Byrne & O’Brien; Finn, Lewis & Scanlon – ready to answer the call for Cuala. Hurling was merely a distant memory – the Battle was on, and Fingallians were about to face into a hurricane!

Cuala employed their now legendry battle-plan: to fight like tigers for every single ball and never let your opponents settle. The men from Swords must have realized as they crossed the Liffey that this was never going to be a ‘walk-in-the-park’, but the intensity and ferocity of the fight unnerved them. Emmet Murphy had clipped over the first of his five frees within 3 minutes. Dillon, the big Fingallian’s mid-fielder wasn’t having any of it. He took control of the sliothar and had registered 2 points within 5 minutes. He flashed another into his inside line, and a ground-pull from the ensuing ruck saw the sliothar bounce just inside the Cuala right-hand upright. Nothing De Felice in nets could do. Fingallians were up 1-2 to 0-1 after 6 minutes. Cuala dug deep and man-of-the match Stevie McDonnell began to get annoyed! He started driving at the Fingallians rear-guard. He scored the first of his five on 17 minutes and began to dominate at half-forward. The Dalkeymen began to turn the screw on their bigger opponents. Fingallians began to lose the plot and started to give away frees. One such free from Murphy was a contested affair, but as ‘Hawk-eye’ had been de-commissioned, the referee adjudged the effort to be wide. A contentious decision as it worked out in the end! The pressure was now on the Northsiders. Balls were moving into their defence and flashing left and right of the target. On 20 minutes, Cian Rellis took a pass from Michael Wylde on the 14’, turned and lashed a goal to the net through a crowd of players. 1-4 to 1-5 at the break – game on!

Stevie Wonder began to dominate after the interval and hit two long-range frees that he had won himself. Murphy clipped over the short ones. Wylde caught two unbelievable catches and scored a point himself on 47 minutes. Cuala outscored their opponents seven to five in the second half but the telling goal came with 8 minutes to go. Cuala were pressing forward and leaving gaps at the back. Fingallians were hitting back on the break, and De Felice had already made two saves Gary Maguire would have been proud of. A ball broke over the full-backs who were now 35m out from goal. The Galls mid-fielder raced onto it, soloed clear and blasted to the net. A sucker-punch for Cuala! The Swordsmen decided to defend their lead. They planted their three big men at the heart of their defence to held Cuala at bay. With time at a premium, Wylde caught another high one and, as he dispatched a pass to Conor Newman standing alone in front of goal, the piercing sound of a whistle cut the air. The Northside invaders headed across the East-link with the spoils on a score-line of 1.11 to 2.9 – but what an effort by this under-strength Cuala team. It is a performance that will live long in the memory.

Footnote: Cuala finish their U15 League Division 1 season in a very creditable 5th place. The count: 4 wins over Na Fianna, Whitehall, Lucan and Clontarf and 5 defeats (two of these by a margin of 2 points or less).

Next up: U15 Championship away to Na Fianna, Sunday 25th August, Glasnevin. The next battle begins!

Team: Ryan Di Felice, Michael Power, Brian Coronella, George O’Brien, Patrick Byrne, James Murphy, Daniel Johnson, Cormac Quinn, Emmet Murphy (0-5, all frees), Craig Finn, Michael Wylde (0-1), Conor Newman, Cian Rellis (1-0), Shane Molomphy, Steven McDonnell (0-5, 2 frees).

Substitutes:  Cathal Scanlon for Craig Finn (inj. 30 mins.), Paddy Lewis for Shane Molumphy (50 mins.)

Ref:  Derek Oman (Naomh Olaf’s)