Jim O’Sullivan

No letting go: Owen Dunphy hugs the Munster Cup. | Photo: Jim O’Sullivan

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Owen Dunphy cut an understandably excited figure on the Semple Stadium sod when speaking to The Munster Express after his De La Salle side’s stunning Munster club final victory.

Well how would you react if were you the manager of a team breaking new ground in your club’s history?

How would you feel if, at the first time of asking, your team had reached the provincial summit in the game’s greatest venue?

Better still, how would you feel if your team was just 60 minutes away from a place in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park? Yep, I thought as much.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” said the De La Salle mentor, proudly clutching the Billy O’Neill trophy.

He admitted: “At half-time, even five, 10 minutes into the second half, it looked like we were trouble. But this team doesn’t know how to die.

“We told them at half-time that they shouldn’t regret anything. We were bottling it out there in the first half; I couldn’t believe how poor we were. I know Adare were closing us down big time and I wouldn’t say we weren’t up for it – but we just weren’t able for it.”

Despite the task facing them at half-time, the De La Salle dressing room was a panic-free zone at the break as Dunphy and his fellow selectors set about cajoling a big display out of their charges.

“We told them at half-time that they should come off the field at full-time with no regrets, that if we went out and performed like we did in the first half again that they’d have big time regrets for the rest of their lives,” said the DLS boss.

“And in fairness, they came out in the second half and produced some display.”

Was he relieved that Adare had proven so profligate in front of goal during the first half?

“Big time,” said Dunphy. “We could easily have been eight, nine, 10 points down at half-time. They hit a lot of wides – I know we hit a few wides ourselves – but they were definitely that much better than us by half-time. They hit a lot of wides in the first 10, 12 minutes while we were struggling big time so it’s a huge relief.

“We made three changes at half-time which we felt were necessary. We told the players during the week that we were going to be aggressive on the sideline and make changes if things weren’t going well, and we did.

“Thankfully, the changes worked. It could easily have backfired on us but thankfully the three substitutions at half-time worked very, very well.”

It’s been a hell of few weeks for Owen Dunphy and his players, and that the De La Salle bandwagon now rolls into 2009 is a tremendous morale boost to hurling across the county.

After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s just what Waterford hurling required after the massive All-Ireland (inter-county) final disappointment.

“For 90 years we’d won absolutely nothing and to go out and win a first county title and then win a Munster club at the first time of asking is absolutely unbelievable,” said a beaming Dunphy.

But the conversation didn’t conclude without the De La Salle manager revealing the pragmatism and focus which has played such a huge part in helping his club reach new heights.

“It’s going to be a sweet Christmas, but we’ve got an Under 21 semi final next week so we’ll look forward to that now.”

Owen Dunphy’s focus in the midst of such great celebration will serve De La Salle and Waterford hurling well in the months, indeed, the years that lie ahead.