De La Salle do it at last
De La Salle 0-11; Abbeyside 0-9
For sheer undiluted effort under the most horrendous of weather and ground conditions, hats off to both De La Salle and Abbeyside for bringing the curtain down on the 2008 Waterford Senior Hurling Championship at rain-soaked Fraher Field Dungarvan on Sunday evening last in such pulsating fashion.
Victory in the end deservedly went the city club’s way by a slender two-point margin. This may not rank as one of the outstanding County Finals – the elements unfortunately saw to that – but it was still a highly entertaining hour’s hurling notwithstand-ing the fact that for the first time since 1993 the decider remained goal less.
On the balance of play, and particularly during the opening half, De La Salle unquestionably looked the better side. Despite the atrocious weather, the game attracted one of the biggest crowds seen at the Old Boro venue in a mighty long while, and would surely have touched record dimensions had the elements been more benevolent.
Aided by a fairly influential first-half breeze, De La Salle set out their stall early and while scores didn’t come as frequently as their territorial advantage merited, they did assume a lead they held to the finish with a magnificent long range point from a free by ‘man of the match’ Bryan Phelan.
His team continued to grow in confidence and had extended their points tally to seven before Abbeyside finally succeeded in getting on the scoresheet for the first time in the 28th minute.
Even though the Westerners’ challenge grew more menacingly coming up to the break, at which stage they trailed by eight points to two, it still looked as if they still had a mountain to climb in the second half.
But to their credit, they certainly answered their critics and contributed handsomely to a rip-roaring second period by first coming up with four unanswered points to cut the deficit to two, and were it not for the sheer brilliance of the winners’ defence, this game might well have taken a most unexpected turn.
As it was, De La Salle hung on grimly to their lead, and twice had to respond with invaluable points to steady the ship and eventually take them over the line in a hectic finish.
Tosnu Maith Leath Na hOibre
Grave concern had existed in advance that the game it would follow the same fate as a number others on Saturday. However, an early morning inspection allayed those fears, and, despite the re-appearance of rain in the lead up to the throw-in, there was general all-round relief when both teams demonstrated their eagerness to get on with the business by coming out on the pitch some twenty minutes before the start.
Abbeyside showed just one change in personnel from their published line out – Declan Fives, brother of right half-forward Mark, taking over at top of the left. De La Salle, meanwhile, made personnel and positional alterations, with Stephen Daniels coming in at left half-back in place of David Greene, while with an injury picked up in midweek training by the experienced Derek McGrath saw Brian Farrell come in at centre-forward, team captain John Mullane moving to the edge of the square, and Lee Hayes switching from his corner-forward slot to the vacant half-forward position.
Supported by the breeze, De La Salle warmed to their task straight away and having scorned a couple of early scoring chances, eventually opened their account with that aforementioned superb free from the outstanding Bryan Phelan after four minutes.
The Abbeyside defence soaked up a fair amount of pressure during the initial quarter, with full-backs Tiernan Murray and Gavin Breen in particular quite heroic. And while Lee Hayes paved the way for a second De La Salle point from captain John Mullane in the 7th minute, the Westerners stayed in touch and owed a great deal to a stupendous Daryl Ryan save in the 14th minute from De La Salle skipper John Mullane.
However, De La Salle’s persistent pressure could not be denied forever and it eventually paid off handsomely between the 15th and 27th minutes when five unanswered points swiftly put the city colours firmly in the ascendancy.
First Paidi Nevin raised splendid white flags in the 15th and 17th minutes, John Mullane finished off a James Quirke free for point number five in the 20th minute, and when James Quirke obliged with two on the trot from frees, it looked ominous for an Abbeyside outfit who up that stage had only mounted a couple of token attacks.
But their fortunes did change for the better coming up to the break, with an inspirational John Hurney point from long distance eventually opening their account. It was deep into added-on time when Mark Gorman got Abbeyside’s second from a free, but straight away De La Salle substitute David Breen responded at the opposite end to leave the victors’ sitting pretty at half-time, 0-8 to 0-2 to the good.
It was abundantly obvious as the two teams came out for the start of the second half that Abbeyside needed scores and quickly if they were really going to make a match out of it.
During a productive spell between the 33rd and 43rd minutes they duly rifled over four splendid points from play per Mark Gorman (free), a super Sean O’Hare effort from the middle of the field, another peach of a score from Declan Fives and yet another fine point from his brother Declan to cut the deficit to just two points.
However, De La Salle rallied between the 44th and 47th minutes. First James Quirke obliged from a free, Bryan Phelan got his second point – again from a prodigious placed position, and into the teeth of the wind – and the chain was completed when Paidi Neville added his third to put De La Salle five points clear at a crucial stage.
The winners didn’t score again, and heroically their defence who had played so well throughout, stepped up a gear in their efforts to keep the very much rampant Abbeyside men at bay.
‘Village’ hopes soared when Patrick Hurney sent over points in the 48th and 53rd minutes, and when Mark Fives clocked up a real beauty in the 55th minute it was back to a two-points game.
But that was as close as Abbeyside got as the De La Salle defence held firm and brought the County Senior Hurling Cup home for the first time in their history.
Amid scenes of tremendous jubilation, winning captain John Mullane was presented with the Cup and he showered lavish praise on his colleagues on their wonderful victory, while not forgetting the vanquished either.
Mullane’s inter-county colleague Bryan Phelan was voted ‘man of the match’ and rightly so, while others to really excel in this excellent achievement included Kevin Moran, Darren Russell, Ian Flynn, Stephen Daniels, Lee Hayes and James Quirke; while for Abbeyside none played better for them than Richie Foley, John Hurney, Tiernan Murraym Sean O’Hare, Mark Fives and Patrick Hurney.
De La Salle: Stevie Brenner, Alan Kelly, Ian Flynn, Michael Doherty, Darren Russell, Kevin Moran, Stephen Daniels, Bryan Phelan, Conan Watt, Lee Hayes, Brian Farrell, Paidi Nevin, Dean Twomey, John Mullane, James Quirke. Subs: David Greene for C Watt (blood injury), Thomas Kearney for B Farrell, David Greene for D Twomey, Alan O’Neill for L Hayes.
Scorers: Paidi Neville and Seamus Quirke (frees) 0-3 each, John Mullane and Bryan Phelan (frees) 0-2 each, David Greene 0-1.
Abbeyside: Daryl Ryan, Tiernan Murray, Patrick Lynch, Gavin Breen, John Hurney, Richie Foley, Eoin Enright, John Foley, Sean O’Hare, Mark Fives, John Gorman, Patrick Hurney, Mark Gorman, Gary Hurney, Declan Fives. Subs: Laurence Hurney for D Fives.
Scorers: Mark Gorman (frees), Patrick Hurney, Mark Fives 0-2 each, Sean O’Hare, John Hurney and Declan Fives 0-1 each.
Referee: Tim O’Byrne (Erins Own).
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