John Mullane bags brace but draw fair result

De La Salle’s John Mullane under pressure from Ballyduff Lower’s John O’Leary during their Waterford SHC second round clash at Walsh Park.                     (Photos: Michael Kiely)

De La Salle’s John Mullane under pressure from Ballyduff Lower’s John O’Leary during their Waterford SHC second round clash at Walsh Park. (Photos: Michael Kiely)

De La Salle . . . 2-11; Ballyduff Lower . . . 0-17

Raging hot favourites De La Salle had every reason to be thankful that two John Mullane goals steered them clear of defeat in this second round game against vastly improved Ballyduff Lower at Walsh Park on Saturday evening last and in the end the teams had to settle for a draw.

It was a lively affair, even though De la Salle can readily claim to have scorned a brace of scoreable frees towards the end that could have seen their unbeaten run remain intact. But credit must go to Ballyduff who, despite the absence of the out of bounds Neil Power, played infinitely better than at any stage of their previous week’s tussle with Ballygunner. They may still have a fair deal to say before the knockout stages come around.

The city men could hardly have wished for a better start and the game was less than two minutes old when Conan Watt pointed them into the clear with a fair measure of confidence. While Pat Fitzgerald levelled from a free over sixty seconds later things looked ominous for Ballyduff in the 4th minute when John Mullane, showing a flash of typical opportunism, got past his marker John O’Leary before hammering the ball to the net for the first of his two crucial goals. Indeed, with only five minutes play gone, De La Salle extended their lead further with a well taken Dermot Dooley point and it certainly looked at that stage as if pre-match predictions would be fulfilled.

Back in style

Right from the outset it was obvious that Ballyduff looked well focused for the task in hand and it really started to show between the 8th and 13th minutes when they shot four superb points on the trot – the first from Paul Stephenson, followed by two in as many minutes from Jack Kennedy and when Pat Fitzgerald had his second from a free, the sides were level for the second time. Then to the delight of their supporters, Ballyduff went in front for the first time in the 16th minute per Niall Clifford and when the industrious Pat Matthews quickly raised a further white flag it was De La Salle’s turn to feel concerned.

By the game’s 22nd minute, the city team got back on terms with two James Quirke points, the first from play following a mighty Kevin Moran clearance from defence and the other from a placed ball. Not to be outdone and somewhat appropriately, seeing as he was now the undisputed master in the middle of the field, Pat Matthews succeeded in levelling proceedings for the fourth time in the 25th minute and it wasn’t too much of a surprise when breeze assisted Ballyduff, who shot seven first half wides to De La Salle’s four, regained the lead in style, first Paudie Murphy finishing off a perfect Pat Fitzgerald pass and then Jack Kennedy following through on his own sideline ball to send the partial clearance over the bar for his team’s tenth point.

Yet, all of Ballyduff’s fine first half work appeared to be in vain when, on the puck out, John Mullane raced through the opposing defence to crack home his second goal in the 31st minute, leaving his side 2-5 to 0-10 to the good when the short whistle sounded.

More of the same

If the opening period proved satisfactory, what transpired after the break was even better. De La Salle had swift points from Dermot Dooley and James Quirke (free) within as many minutes of the restart. It continued nip and tuck for the remainder of the third quarter as first Paul Stephenson and James Quirke traded points – the last mentioned and Ger Harris followed suit and there was still only the minimum between the sides by the 40th minute after James Quirke and Pat Fitzgerald swapped points from frees.

Everything was now poised for a hectic finish and in that respect spectators were certainly not disappointed. During the next thirteen minutes of play, Ballyduff surged back in front big time – Pat Fitzgerald, Conor Kenny (free) and substitute Paul Leahy who travelled especially over from Scotland to help his parish team in their hour of need, rifled over points in that order, to put Ballyduff in front by 0-16 to 2-9.

With the outcome now delicately poised, De La Salle pressed the experienced Derek McGrath into the fray and the joint Manager of the College winning All Ireland side brought about parity for the fifth time with less than six minutes on the clock. Tension really mounted after Jack Kennedy put Ballyduff a point ahead in the 55th minute and it looked for a while as if the city colours might end up on the wrong side of the scoresheet as a couple of handy close-in frees by James Quirke went astray. In the end however justice was done when De La Salle’s chief marksman found the target from a 61st minute placed ball to level the match.

Stood out

This was quite a morale boosting display and result for Ballyduff and a win in their final group match against Ardmore should guarantee them a place in the play-offs at least. This time out there was a more balanced look to their team and full marks to John O’Leary, Derek Van Veen, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Matthews, Jack Kennedy, Aidan Dunne and Ger Harris for tremendous leadership and excellent commitment from start to finish.

On the other side of the coin this was a chastening experience for De la Salle who in the opinion of most shrewd observers are one of the favourites to lift the title at long last this year. Collectively the team are probably capable of a much better all round effort, yet none can fault the Herculean work rate of Kevin Moran, Darren Russell, Ian Flynn, Bryan Phelan, Conan Watt, James Quirke and John Mullane. The third and final group match with resurgent Ballygunner is already looking to be one of the games of the year.

Teams

Ballyduff: Brian O’Leary, Aidan Dunne, John O’Leary, Derek Van Veen, Stephen O’Leary, Conor Kenny, Paul Kennedy, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Matthews, Paul Stephenson, Jack Kennedy, Paudie Murphy, Niall Clifford, Ger Harris, Conor Power. Sub: Paul Leahy for P. Murphy.

De La Salle: Stevie Brenner, Darren Russell, Ian Flynn, Michael Doherty, Stephen Daniels, Bryan Phelan, Kevin Moran, Brian Farrell, Paraic Nevin, Conan Watt, Alan O’Neill, James Quirke, Dean Twomey, John Mullane, Dermot Dooley. Sub: Derek McGrath for D. Dooley.

Scorers

Ballyduff: Jack Kennedy 0-4, Pat Fitzgerald 0- 4 (0-3 frees), Pat Matthews and Paul Stephenson 0-2 each, Paudie Murphy, Niall Clifford, Ger Harris, Conor Kenny (free) and Paul Leahy 0-1 each.

De La Salle: John Mullane 2-0, James Quirke 0-7 (0-6 frees), Dermot Dooley 0-2, Conan Watt and Derek McGrath 0-1 each.

Ref: Bryan Power (Mt. Sion).

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