Third time lucky the hope at Carlow venue

Alan Aherne

Published 24/11/2015 | 00:00

24 November 2015; Cualas Darragh OConnell is pictured alongside Paul Roche from Oulart the Ballagh ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final on the 29th of November in Dr Cullen Park at 2pm. For exclusive content throughout the AIB Club Championships follow @AIB_GAA and facebook.com/AIBGAA. Clanna Gael GAA Club, Ringsend, Dublin 4. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***
24 November 2015; Cualas Darragh OConnell is pictured alongside Paul Roche from Oulart the Ballagh ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final on the 29th of November in Dr Cullen Park at 2pm. For exclusive content throughout the AIB Club Championships follow @AIB_GAA and facebook.com/AIBGAA. Clanna Gael GAA Club, Ringsend, Dublin 4. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

Oulart-The Ballagh will be hoping it's third time lucky at Sunday's venue when they take on Cuala from Dublin with a first-ever AIB Leinster Club Senior hurling championship title as their goal.

Two of their previous six finals (seven if you include one draw) were held in Carlow's Dr. Cullen Park which was re-named Netwatch Cullen Park last year.

And it wasn't a happy hunting ground for the Wexford kingpins as they lost to two Kilkenny clubs: Glenmore in 1995 by 2-13 to 2-10, and city side O'Loughlin Gaels in the 2010 decider, which wasn't played until January 30, 2011, by 0-14 to 1-8.

It's interesting to note that while Oulart-The Ballagh have maintained an admirable level of consistency despite their many disappointments, 20 years later Glenmore find themselves in search of an AIB Leinster Junior Club title after beating St. Fechin's of Louth over the weekend.

Oulart-The Ballagh have played 28 games in total so far in their quest for provincial glory over a 21-year period, with five encounters held in Carlow. Their only defeats were in those finals, as they beat Tullaroan of Kilkenny there in the 1994 semi-final by 1-12 to 1-5, Kiltegan of Wicklow at the same stage the following year by 3-14 to 0-5, and Carlow's Naomh Bríd in the 2004 quarter-final by 2-14 to 0-7.

The overall record in those 28 matches is: won 15, drew two, and lost eleven. Unfortunately, six of those losses came in finals, a trend that Frank Flannery and his charges will be hoping to end once and for all next Sunday.

The debut final appearance was at their first attempt in 1994, and it went to two games. Club hurling big-hitters Birr were held to a 0-10 to 1-7 draw in Nowlan Park on November 27, but the Offaly side won the following week's replay at the same venue by 3-7 to 2-5.

The disappointment to Glenmore followed in 1995, and Oulart-The Ballagh didn't contest the final again until that 2010 defeat to O'Loughlin Gaels mentioned above. Unfortunately, that was the start of a four-in-a-row losing sequence.

Nowlan Park played host to the next three finals which ended in defeats to Coolderry from Offaly in 2011 (1-15 to 1-11), Kilcormac-Killoughey from Offaly in 2012 (1-12 to 0-11), and Mount Leinster Rangers from Carlow in 2013 (0-11 to 0-8).

Significantly, Sunday will be the first time for Oulart-The Ballagh to take on the Dublin champions in the final. They have a record of one win and two losses in their three previous clashes with teams from the capital, losing to U.C.D. in the 2005 semi-final by 0-15 to 1-9, and to Ballyboden St. Enda's in the 2007 quarter-final by 1-17 to 0-15, but defeating Kilmacud Crokes by 1-13 to 1-12 in the 2012 quarter-final.

They have met teams from eight of the eleven remaining Leinster counties in their 21-year quest, with Kilkenny top of the pile on eight (four wins, four losses).

The Noresiders are followed by six games against Laois (four wins, one draw, one loss), five against Offaly (one win, one draw, three losses), three against Dublin (one win, two losses), two against Westmeath (two wins), two against Carlow (one win, one loss), and one win apiece versus Wicklow and Louth respectively.

The most frequent venue for Oulart-The Ballagh's Leinster Club games has been Nowlan Park in Kilkenny which hosted nine outings. The list is completed by Netwatch Cullen Park in Carlow (five), Innovate Wexford Park (four), O'Moore Park in Portlaoise (two), Cusack Park in Mullingar (two), Parnell Park in Donnycarney (two), and one match apiece in Rathdowney, Bellefield, Knockbridge and Tullamore respectively.

None of the Cuala players had prior experience of the AIB Leinster Club championship before their recent wins over Coolderry and Clara respectively, as their 3-14 to 0-13 county title success against St. Jude's on the last day of October was their first since 1994, and fourth in all after previous successes in 1989 and 1991.

Their sole previous battle with the Wexford champions will be remembered fondly in Dalkey though in the lead-up to Sunday's final. Buffers Alley were the reigning All-Ireland champions when the sides locked horns in the semi-final in Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, on November 19, 1989.

And after holding the favourites to a 1-10 to 0-13 draw, Cuala proved that the display was no flash in the pan on the following weekend when they won the replay by 4-6 to 0-11.

Cuala were subsequently well beaten in the Leinster final by Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny on a 2-11 to 0-7 scoreline.

And the Wexford links were strong at the time as their squad included 1968 veteran Dave Bernie, Enniscorthy duo Murty Dempsey and Colm O'Leary, plus Mick Morrissey from Graiguenamanagh who has been involved with the St. Martin's club for many years.

Two more ex-Rapparees men, Paul Nolan and John O'Sullivan, were also on board when the southside club won its second county Senior title in 1991.

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