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We’ve all heard the one about waiting for one bus to come along. Stephen Brenner, the delighted De La Salle goalkeeper who kept another clean sheet at Semple Stadium on Sunday, has heard that one more than most.
Standing amongst the delighted DLS support following Sunday’s dramatic Munster Club final, the former Waterford netminder was a picture of contentment. But success like this at club level has been a long time coming for one of this team’s greatest servants.
“I’m on the senior panel since 1991 and I never won a thing up until now and now it feels like it’s raining trophies.” quipped Brenner. “It’s great. We’ll take anything that comes at this stage.”
He added: “We didn’t think we’d be facing Adare in the final. We thought we might end up playing Toomevara if we were going to get this far. But that upset suited us then and it gave us a right chance, and it put an extra bit of wind in our sails and we ploughed on.
“We knew on paper that we had a better team and that we could do it. It was just a matter of putting what we’re doing in training onto the field today. In the first half it didn’t happen for us but the second half was outstanding stuff from the lads. It was unbelievable.”
What made the second half recovery possible? “It’s hard to explain in a few words,” said Brenner.
“At half-time we went in and we had a few words with each other. We’d missed a lot of scores and we could have been level going in but in saying that we could have been 10, 12 points down but Adare didn’t put us away.
“Not having scored in the first half could have had people thinking that the game was over and that Adare were going to come out and hammer us in the second half. But we’ve shown some character in all the games we’ve played this year.
“We knew coming up that if they wanted to play hurling, we’d play hurling. Likewise if they wanted a physical battle, we’d have taken it to them. We knew they were going to throw everything at us but we responded to it well.”
Brenner said that Owen Dunphy’s half-time changes clearly had the desired effect. “The three substitutes probably won the game for us,” he felt.
“Seamus Richardson came on and won a few frees and got a score, Stephen Daniels playing wing back came on and cleared a few balls and helped to settle us down. And now these lads are going to be fighting for their places for the All-Ireland semi-final, which says a lot about how strong our panel is.”
Like John Mullane, winning in club colours got Brenner’s heart pumping a little harder than inter-county success at the same venue.
“Nothing compares to this,” he happily admitted. “Winning with your club is unbelievable.
“I know there mightn’t be as many people in the stands here as they were in days for Waterford, but coming across the field there, meeting people you grew up with, meeting fellas that used be up training you and fellas you used be playing with, it’s unbelievable.”
So what will this victory mean for hurling in the Deise county?
“It gives a bit of a softer landing for the new year alright. And we can build on it. We’ll probably get a few more fellas on the senior panel now and they deserve it because they’ve been playing so well. Anything that’s good for us is good for Waterford hurling…
“We’re only 60 minutes away from Croke Park, but we won’t taking our eye off the ball. We’ll give Cushendall 100 per cent attention and hope for the best.”