Pulsating entertainment. A roller-coaster game crammed with excitement and drama. Cuala and St Judes traded thrust and counter-thrust in a contest that had Hyde Road rocking before an irresistible late surge saw the home team emerge victorious.
Yet it all started so differently. In the first quarter, strong running from midfield by some of Judes’ physically imposing players saw them open up the Cuala defence repeatedly. They scored a goal within three minutes and another followed shortly afterwards. It looked ominous for the locals but robust scrambling defence by Darragh Collopy, Dave Sheerin and Jacob Brennan helped choke off the flow of scores and gradually the Cuala lads got to grips with the visitors’ attacking system. This meant the rest of the half was a much more evenly-contested affair. Cillian Sheanon got the reds moving on the scoreboard with a couple of nicely taken scores. Judes’ points were being answered in kind as Cuala began to get their passing game going. Conor Bennett drove the team forward from midfield and, ably supported by the clever probing of Ronan Sweeney, this meant that the Dalkey forward line began to see far more of the ball. Donal Lehmann (2) and Paul James (2) ensured that there was end product to the good football that was being played.
So we reached half time with the score Cuala 0-6; St Judes 2-7.
While the deficit was 7 points and we had lost two of our most experienced defenders to injury in that first half, there was a clear sense during the half time team-talk that the ship had been righted and that there was all to play for in the second half. How prescient that turned out to be!
A Paul James free injected early momentum as Cuala upped the pace and intensity at the outset of the second half. Cuala pushed up on the Judes’ kickouts and the pressure started to tell on the visiting defence with Cillian Sheanon and Tiernan Lane running strongly and the full forward line of Lehmann, James and Mark O’Grady showing prominently and winning ball in front of their men. Points from Lane and Lehmann closed the gap before substitute Jim Kennedy lit up the game with a magnificently taken goal. Cuala now had the bit between their teeth and another high-speed passing move saw Tiernan Lane pass the ball to the net to put the home side in front for the first time.
To their credit, St Judes reacted strongly and pressed forward. A shot for goal that was blocked spun out to an unmarked attacker who managed to find the net. This is when the mettle of this young team really showed. Paul James got on the end of another fine move to slot the ball home and put the home side back in front. A Judes’ free levelled things up with less than five minutes remaining. Still Cuala came again. Jack Twomey, who had a been having a fine game since his early introduction as a first half substitute, drove forward and kicked a towering point. Cuala continued to press and Cillian Sheanon capped a fine performance with the final point of the game. It was a lost cause for St Judes.
Final Score Cuala 3-13; St Judes 3-11.
There was so much to admire in this performance from a young and much-changed side. Darragh O’Reilly was solidity personified in goal. The accuracy of his kick-outs provided the platform for much of Cuala’s attacking. Kevin Wylde and Donal Lane were heroes in defence, not only breaking up attacks but pressing forward at every opportunity. Conor Bennett was an absolute colossus in midfield and the clever inter-passing and movement of the frontline proved too much for a resolute visiting side. However, the most uplifting element of the night was the infusion of commitment, energy and skill that was provided by the young bench that came on. They more than played their part in the tremendous second-half display. Jack Twomey, Jim and Eoin Kennedy, Brian Cornella and Rory McMahon truly played the part of ‘finishers’ helping the team not only to claw back a big deficit but to push on again for victory when they were pegged back again near the end. A great omen for the future of Cuala football.
A few weeks break now before a local derby against Kilmacud Crokes on Saturday, 26th August. Can’t wait!