So it has come down to two as Cuala meet St Judes in the Dublin Senior Hurling Final this Saturday at 3pm in Parnell Park.
Dublin’s capturing of League and Leinster honours in recent years as well as retaining their Division 1A status this year means there is more interest than ever in a tie that features some of the games finest talents.
The fact that it’s a Saturday fixture means it may garner more attention for an exciting Championship in a club season that’s been swallowed up so far by Irelands’s Rugby World Cup games and various Premier League derbies. Not one's for shirking the challenge of other events this weekend they go up against the World Cup final, a full roster of 3pm Premier League kick-offs as well as the early game between Liverpool and Chelsea.
The marquee names are probably on a Cuala side managed by former Galway selector Mattie Kenny. Up and coming inter-county defender Cian O’Callaghan seems to improve with every match in a back line that also contains Paul Schutte.
Oisin Gough has featured for Dublin in the past while Colm Cronin, the Treacy brothers and Mark Schutte are a handful for any defence. David Treacy relishes dead-ball situations and slotted over 12 points from frees against Ballyboden in their high scoring semi-final.
As with many Dublin clubs, country lads feature and Christy Ring Cup winner with Kerry Darragh O’Connell who got Championship game time with Dublin this season as well as Borrisleigh man Shane Stapleton provide craft and guile in the back line and midfield areas. Having stand out names is one thing but mixing them is another. It's something that the Dalkey men have done this year to get back to the final for the first time since losing out to Kilmacud Crokes in 2012, their last success was in 1994.
"If it’s battle you battle" shouted Steve 'Bleo' Bleasdale in reality show Big Ron Manager many years ago but unlike the Peterborough side that were subject to that disastrous TV experiment, Judes actually follow the battle mantra. Those battling qualities were once again to the fore this season. Last year the Tymon park men lost the final in extra-time to Crokes but this year they weren’t to be denied against the champions with two late long-range frees by former Waterford defender Wayne Hutchinson eeking them through a tight quarter final. They were four down at the break in the semi final against Lucan Sarsfields before a strong second half saw them win by five.
The influence of new arrival and four-time county title winner with Ballygunner Hutchinson can't be underestimated while Joey McManus and is a running threat at corner forward and Mangan and Maguire use the ball extremely well in a solid and focused midfield. Cuala need to be disciplined as Wayne Hutchinson can punish them from long range free’s while in the large part teenager Fionn Ó Riain Broin slots them over closer in although he had some miscues in the last two games.
Paul Maguire as mentioned is tidy between the 45’s but last year he proved useful from close in frees scoring a goal against Kilmacud Crokes late in extra time.
Cuala scored 27 points against Ballyboden in the semi final with a first half blitz setting them up for the rest of the match.
Judes have conceded no goals from play in their last two games and given their solid structure it’s hard to see Cuala getting the same kid of time and space they did in their last match.
This game could down to discipline and whoever makes more use out of frees. Sometimes game plans work and sometimes they don’t and if we learned anything from Kilkenny this year it’s that while game plans are important hard work is vital.
If these two teams work rate match what we’ve seen in recent matches we’re in for one hell of a battle in Parnell park with a winner nigh on impossible to call.