De La Salle edge into semi finals by minimum margin

De La Salle’s Brian Phelan gets the better of Fourmilewater’s Michael O’Gorman and Rory Rice during their Waterford Senior hurling championship clash at Fraher Field.<br />

De La Salle’s Brian Phelan gets the better of Fourmilewater’s Michael O’Gorman and Rory Rice during their Waterford Senior hurling championship clash at Fraher Field.

De La Salle 1-11; Fourmilewater 0-13

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Further compelling proof of just how great a leveller the championship scene can be was provided for the big attendance at Fraher Field last Saturday when odds on favourites De La Salle were put to the pin of their collars to stave off Fourmilewater’s vibrant challenge in the first of the county senior hurling quarter finals.

In the end it was the classic case of the agony and the ecstasy all rolled into one as the city outfit somehow survived Fourmile’s brave and battling challenge in what was a teak tough but sporting game.

Always close, always exciting, it never quite measured up nonetheless in terms of the skill factor, and the winners will know that much more will be required of them if they are to go and annex the coveted title that has so agonisingly eluded them down the decades.

In truth from a neutral’s perspective a draw would have been the most fitting result, and certainly a one point defeat reflects harshly on the gigantic effort Fourmile put in against all the odds.

Mightily relieved

But when it mattered most De La Salle’s experience, exemplified best by Kevin Moran and John Mullane, stood them in good stead although they were mightily relieved when the final whistle confirmed their place in the penultimate stage of the title race.

It could so easily have gone the other way, and the losers will rue a few gilt edged chances that went abegging on them in both halves. But credit De La Salle with remaining cool and composed in the tightest of situations, and they hung on defiantly as Fourmile’ laid virtual siege to their goal in the tension charged closing minutes.

Fourmile’ got off to the proverbial flyer with their most threatening forward, Richard Fenton, firing over three points to steady the nerves, and De La Salle had to wait all of a quarter of an hour to get off the mark with a point from a James Quirke free.

Their hurling in that opening quarter lacked real bite as they sluggishly tried to stay in touch with an opposition that was dominating matters territorially without ever reflecting that dominance where it mattered most – on the scoreboard.

They were denied a goal on nineteen minutes however when Mullane’s blockbuster drive was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Conor Ryan, and Ryan kept out another Mullane special three minutes later only for Dean Twomey to hammer the breaking ball to the back of the net. In front for the first time the winners, somewhat flatteringly, led by 1-4 to 0-5 at the interval.

Controversy

Within five seconds of the restart Mullane had the ball in the net again but several of the Fourmile’ defenders and goalkeeper Ryan hadn’t even taken up their positions from the throw in, and following consultation with both of his umpires referee Tim O’Byrne correctly cancelled out the score. It was a decision De La Salle, to their credit, didn’t seriously contest but it was a let off nonetheless for the losers.

As the intensity and tempo of the game increased the sides were level three times, with teenager Thomas Walsh chipping in with a brace of super points for the losers and Dean Twomey and David Greene responding in kind for ‘Salle.

Eventually the scoring deadlock was broken when Mullane – tightly policed but ever a danger nonetheless – fired over two rapid fire points to restore the De La Salle lead, and when Padraig Nevin’s sweetly struck one put three between them in the 58th minute the Fourmile’ challenge looked to have finally crumbled.

Not a bit of it, and two more pointed frees by Fenton had the deficit down to the minimum, and it was backs to the wall stuff for De La Salle as Fourmile’ piled on the pressure.

Time, and a resilient winners defence however combined to deny them and it was De La Salle into the “semis” – if only by the proverbial whisker.

“Mission Accomplished” will probably be the De La Salle summarisation of this quarter final, but in an overall context it was a long way off being a championship winning performance.

Brian Phelan and Ian Flynn hurled solidly in their central defensive positions; Kevin Moran came good at midfield when the need was greatest, and while John Mullane has had better games in the club colours he was still the man who pulled them through in attack when push ultimately came to shove. There was good support too from Dean Twomey and Padraic Nevin both of whom contributed importantly to their score sheet.

For Fourmile’ one man who stood head and shoulders over everyone else was full back Liam Lawlor, and I just hope there were some future county selectors in the ground to se what was a truly flawless exhibition by the number three. Outside him Brian Wall also had a fine hour as did Shane Walsh in the middle of the field along with Richard Fenton and young Thomas Walsh (still a minor) in attack.

De La Salle: S. Brenner; A. Kelly, I. Flynn, M. Doherty; D. Russell, B. Phelan, A. O’Neill; K. Moran, C. Watt; D. Greene, P. Nevin, T. Kearney; D. Twomey, J. Mullane, J. Quirke; Sub; D. McGrath for O’Neill; L. Hayes for Quirke; B. Farrell for Kearney.

Scorers: D Twomey(1-1); J. Mullane(0-3, 0-1 free); J. Quirke(0-2, frees); P. Nevin(0-2); T. Kearney, D. Greene, B. Phelan(0-1) each.

Fourmilewater: C. Ryan; J. Moore, L. Lawlor, L. Walsh; P. Horkan. B. Wall, R. Rice; S. Walsh, Maurice O’Gorman; T. Walsh, M. Walsh, Michael O’Gorman; S. Lawlor. D. Spellman, R. Fenton; Subs; T. O’Gorman for Michael O’Gorman; D. Wall for Spellman.

Scorers: R. Fenton(0-7, 0-5 frees); T. Walsh(0-2); D. Spellman, Michael O’Gorman, T. O’Gorman, L. Lawlor(0-1) each.

Referee: Tim O’Byrne, Erins Own.

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