By Paul Keane
Cuala (Dublin) 1-23 Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) 1-9
Con O’Callaghan’s early goal in Portlaoise set AIB All-Ireland club hurling title holders Cuala on their way to a big win and back-to-back provincial titles.
O’Callaghan fired 1-2 in total, all of which came in the opening 18 minutes when Mattie Kenny’s men raced 1-8 to 0-0 clear, effectively killing off the contest at that early stage.
Kilcormac-Killoughey, winners of the competition in 2012, made a difficult situation almost impossible for themselves when they lost goalscorer Conor Mahon to a red card in first-half stoppage time.
They performed better in the second-half and had a number of goal opportunities but couldn’t take any of them and had a penalty saved in the 38th minute.
In truth, Cuala always looked in control and had a reliable scoring outlet in free-taker David Treacy who hit 10 points, all from placed balls.
Colum Sheanon and Colm Cronin also contributed three points each as the Dalkey outfit intriguingly scored 26 points (1-23) for the third game running in the province.
Their reward, aside from entering the history books as the first Dublin club to win two Leinster titles, is an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Galway champions Liam Mellows on February 10.
O’Callaghan, a newly crowned football All-Star, scored 1-3 in each of their previous games against St Martin’s of Wexford’s and Kilkenny’s Dicksboro and netted again early on here.
That goal came in the 12th minute when he slipped away from full-back Ger Healion and planted a shot from the left of goals that deflected in off the goalkeeper.
Sheanon and Cronin added points before O’Callaghan nailed back-to-back scores to open up that 1-8 to no score lead.
Underdogs Kilcormac-Killoughey pulled back 1-2, including a goal from Mahon, but didn’t score a point from play in the first-half and trailed 1-10 to 1-2 at the break.
Mahon’s exit following a clash with Oisin Gough was a huge setback, and though they rallied after the restart, they were always chasing the game.
Free-taker Ciaran Slevin saw his penalty saved by Sean Brennan and with it went the Offaly outfit’s hopes of rescuing a result.
They got the margin down to seven points entering the final quarter, but Cuala finished the game strong, outscoring Kilcormac-Killoughey by nine points to two to win at their ease.
Brian Fitzgerald, Darragh O’Connell and Jake Malone were all among the scorers late on.
Scorers for Cuala: D. Treacy (0-10, 9 frees, 1 65), Con O’Callaghan (1-2), C. Cronin, C. Sheanon (0-3 each), D. O’Connell (0-2, 1 free), C. Waldron, J. Malone, B. Fitzgerald (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilcormac-Killoughey: C. Slevin (0-5, 3 frees, 1 65), Conor Mahon (1-0), P. Geraghty (0-2), D. Currams, T. Geraghty (0-1 each).
Cuala: S. Brennan; O. Gough, Cian O’Callaghan, S. Timlin; P. Schutte, S. Moran, J. Sheanon; D. O’Connell, S. Treacy; C. Cronin, D. Treacy, J Malone; C. Sheanon, Con O’Callaghan, N. Kenny.
Subs: C. Waldron for Schutte (22), B. Fitzgerald for Kenny (44), N. Carty for D. Treacy (56), R. Tierney for O’Connell (59), S. Stapleton for Con O’Callaghan (59).
Kilcormac-Killoughey: Conor Slevin; K. Leonard, G. Healion, J. Quinn; K. Grogan, D. Kilmartin, E. Grogan; T. Geraghty, Ciaran Slevin; J. Gorman, C. Mahon, P. Geraghty; S. Leonard, P. Healion, D. Currams.
Subs: A. McConville for P Healion (45), J. Geraghty for Gorman (53), C. Quinn for S. Leonard (57), B. Leonard for G. Healion (59), Cathal Mahon for Quinn (60).
Ref: S. Cleere (Kilkenny).