Treacy holds nerve to earn Cuala sec­ond bite at cherry

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - DER­MOT CROWE

DAVID Treacy’s 12th and fi­nal free in a flaw­less strik­ing per­for­mance earned Cuala a re­play and a sec­ond shot at re­tain­ing their All-Ire­land club ti­tle in bit­terly cold con­di­tions at Croke Park, the score com­ing in the fi­nal minute of ex­tra­time. Af­ter a string of poor club fi­nals, with an av­er­age mar­gin of nine points de­cid­ing the last 20, this car­ried huge ex­pec­ta­tions of some­thing more wor­thy. It didn’t en­ter clas­sic ter­ri­tory but the match was keenly con­tested through­out, the teams tied on eight oc­ca­sions and pro­vid­ing plenty of drama.

They will have to meet again to de­cide the des­ti­na­tion of the ti­tle, with Cuala the more for­tu­nate to be get­ting an­other op­por­tu­nity. In nor­mal time Na Piar­saigh looked to have claimed a coura­geous win, lead­ing by three points with the match in in­jury-time, hav­ing faced the strong wind for the sec­ond half af­ter lead­ing by just two points at the in­ter­val. But a foul on Colm Cronin left Cuala with one last chance. Sean Mo­ran stepped up to the 20m free and found the net, send­ing the match to ex­tra-time.

Be­fore that Shane Dowl­ing missed a free near the end of nor­mal time which would have made the match safe, but Na Piar­saigh still looked poised to re­gain their ti­tle un­til Mo­ran’s in­ter­ces­sion. Lead­ing 0-8 to 0-6 head­ing at half-time, an early sec­ond-half goal from Pe­ter Casey gave them im­pe­tus, leav­ing them four points up. But Cuala took over con­trol of the match for a spell. Be­tween the 37th minute and the 43rd they ran off five scores in a row to lead for the first time since early in the match.

Con O’Cal­laghan scored just one point, in ex­tra-time, as did Mark Schutte, al­though both were in­volved in win­ning frees which Treacy con­verted. Cuala’s top scorer didn’t miss any of his 12 free at­tempts and se­verely pun­ished Na Piar­saigh in­dis­ci­pline. But the Lim­er­ick side also de­fended well, deny­ing Cuala a goal from open play, and al­low­ing them just one half goal chance, from Schutte early in the match. Mike Casey did an ex­cel­lent job in re­strain­ing O’Cal­laghan for the most part.

Play­ing with the strong wind, Na Piar­saigh, cham­pi­ons in 2016, were slow to set­tle, scor­ing only once in the open­ing quar­ter hour, with Cuala build­ing a 0-4 to 0-1 lead. O’Cal­laghan was fouled for two of Treacy’s four first-half frees, the first in the third minute open­ing the scor­ing, Colm Cronin dou­bling their ad­van­tage two min­utes later.

Kevin Downes, who had a fierce bat­tle for much of the game with Cian O’Cal­laghan, got Na Piar­saigh off the mark in the sev­enth minute but it took an­other nine min­utes be­fore they man­aged to score again. Downes had an ex­cel­lent match, scor­ing four points play and al­ways there when his side needed lead­er­ship against a tight-mark­ing Cuala de­fence in which Paul Schutte was out­stand­ing.

Hav­ing taken time to ig­nite, Na Piar­saigh snapped to life with three scores in two min­utes head­ing into the sec­ond quar­ter, Casey hit­ting a sub­lime score un­der pres­sure from John Sheanon, quickly fol­lowed by one from Dowl­ing, be­fore Downes fielded Casey’s de­liv­ery and pointed in the 18th minute. That score tied the teams for the first time at 0-4 a piece.

Treacy an­swered that with two frees for Cuala, but the last three scores of the half went to Na Piar­saigh who went in lead­ing 0-8 to 0-6 at the in­ter­val, in­clud­ing two from Adrian Breen.

Hav­ing leaked five scores af­ter the in­ter­val with­out a re­sponse, Na Piar­saigh came again, Downes hit­ting an im­por­tant score ten min­utes into the sec­ond half to draw them level. Adrian Breen had them ahead go­ing into the last ten min­utes and a Dowl­ing free left them two clear with five min­utes of nor­mal time re­main­ing. Treacy got one back, then Downes hit a mag­nif­i­cent score and Dowl­ing added a free. Three points up, it ap­peared enough. But Mo­ran’s strike brought a se­quel.

Na Piar­saigh led 2-18 to 1-20 at half­time in ex­tra-time, with wind ad­van­tage to come, boosted by an early goal from David Breen. But Cuala would not let go. David Dempsey pro­vided one more score for Na Piar­saigh in the fi­nal pe­riod but two Treacy frees en­sured a re­play would be needed. Scor­ers — Na Piar­saigh: S Dowl­ing 0-6 (4fs); P Casey 1-2; D Breen 1-1; K Downes, A Breen 0-4; D Dempsey 0-2. Cuala: D Treacy 0-12 (0-12 fs); S Mo­ran 1-0 (f); S Treacy 0-3; C Cronin, C Sheanon, D O’Con­nell, N Kenny, J Malone, M Schutte, C O’Cal­laghan 0-1.

Na Piar­saigh: P Kennedy; J Boy­lan, M Casey, N Buck­ley; A Dempsey, C King, K Kennedy; S Dowl­ing, W O’Donoghue; R Lynch, D Breen, D Dempsey; A Breen, K Downes, P Casey. Subs: M Fo­ley for Buck­ley (70); G Brown for Boy­lan (75); K Ryan for Kennedy (80).

Cuala: S Bren­nan; O Gough, Cian O’Cal­laghan, P Schutte; J Sheanon, S Mo­ran, D O’Con­nell; C Sheanon, S Treacy; J Malone, C Cronin, D Treacy; N Kenny, Con O’Cal­laghan, M Schutte. Subs: S Sta­ple­ton for J Sheanon (48); N Carty for Kenny (53); C Wal­dron for Malone (62); N Kenny for Carty & J Malone for Wal­dron (start of ex­tra-time); S Tim­lin for S Treacy (66); D O’Flynn for Cronin (68); S Treacy for Kenny (74).

Ref­eree: C Lyons (Cork)

Photo: Stephen McCarthy

David Treacy of Cuala points a late free to earn Cuala a re­play.

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