Gallant De La Salle end 90-year title agony

OVER 90 years of unfulfilled ambition were swept aside at wind and rain lashed Fraher Field, Dungarvan yesterday when John Mullane hoisted the "News And Star" Cup to signal De La Salle’s historic Waterford SHC title win.

On a day when the elements did their level best to spoil the occasion, the near 6,000 attendance were treated to a final full of honest endeavour. Abbeyside can take solace from their thrilling second-half fight back but they will reflect on a day when they never quite reproduced the brilliance that had brought them so convincingly to the decider.

In the end there was just a puck of the ball separating the sides but over the entirety of the game there can be no questioning the merits of De La Salle’s win. They were never headed from the moment Brian Phelan pointed them ahead with a fourth minute free, and with their majestic half back trio of Dean Russell, the powerhouse Kevin Moran and teenager Stephen Daniels controlling things, Abbeyside rarely threatened in that opening half.

The winners’ dominance wasn’t all down to the fact that they had the backing of the elements and Abbeyside would have been in even deeper trouble were it not for the magnificence of John Hurney’s play at wing back.

But the signs were ominous, nonetheless, as De La Salle enjoyed increasingly more possession with every passing minute. John Mullane was also sparkling early on in their attack in which Paraic Nevin also became a hugely influential presence, while the dominance of Brian Phelan in the middle of the field only added to Abbeyside’s discomfort.

Given the conditions underfoot it was never going to a be a high scoring game, and for all their territorial possession De La Salle had to graft hard to compile what ultimately proved to be a match winning first-half tally.

Mullane rifled over a brace of super points in the seventh and 20th minutes and sandwiched in between were two equally fine scores from Nevin. James Quirke also chipped in with a brace from frees and after 27 minutes the winners had 0-6 on the board without a solitary Abbeyside response.

That came 60 seconds later from the majestic John Hurney with one of the scores of the game. Things became even brighter when Mark Gorman converted a free in added time, but the final say of the half was De La Salle’s blood substitute David Green clipping over a beauty within seconds of coming in for the injured Conan Watt, to give them a 0-8 to 0-2 advantage that didn’t flatter them.

Right from the restart Abbeyside took the game to De La Salle. Mark Gorman’s pointed free in the 33rd minute was the tonic they needed and things got infinitely better when quality points from Sean O’Hare and Declan and Mark Fives had the deficit down to just two by the 43rd minute.

Game on with De La Salle for once looking ragged and rattled. James Quirke’s 44th minute pointed free was their first score of the half and it had a tellingly positive impact on his side. Much of their earlier assurance was back as Brian Phelan (free) and Nevin eased them to safer pastures with great points in the 46th and 47th minutes, their final contributions to the scoreboard.

The fans were now on their toes as the excitement mounted and when another of the Hurney clan, Patrick, lofted over mighty points in the 48th and 53rd minutes it was again a two point game. With Gary Hurney much more effective around midfield in that second-half, driving them on with his brother John, and with Mark Fives foraging menacingly in attack, most of the closing tension charged minutes saw the play deep in the De La Salle half.

Never was the resoluteness of Kevin Moran seen to better effect, however, as he came thundering clear to stymie potentially match winning Abbeyside forays, and with man of the match Brian Phelan also falling back to give invaluable assistance, those De La defensive ranks stood tall under intense pressure.

The goal they needed just wouldn’t come despite all of the Abbeyside pressure and Mark Fives’s beauty of a point in the 55th minute would prove to be the final score of the game.

They still scrapped feverishly for the goal that would win it for them, but it never came, and while Abbeyside’s second-half resurgence contributed in huge measure to the overall entertainment of a hard fought decider, the honours ultimately rested where they deservedly belonged.

Scorers for De La Salle: J Quirke, 0-3 (f); P Nevin, 0-3; J Mullane, 0-2; B Phelan, 0-2; D Green, 0-1.

Scorers for Abbeyside: M Gorman, 0-2 (f); M Fives, 0-2; P Hurney 0-2, J Hurney, D Fives, S O’Hare, 0-1 each.

DE LA SALLE: S Brenner; A Kelly, L Fynn, M Doherty; D Russell, K Moran, S Daniels; B Phelan, C Watt; L Hayes, B Farrell, P Nevin; D Twomey, J Mullane, J Quirke.

Subs: D Green for Watt (blood); T Kearney for Farrell (40); D Green for Twomey (50); A O’Neill for Hayes (60).

ABBEYSIDE: D Ryan; T Murray, P Lynch, G Breen; J Hurney, R Foley, E Enright; J Foley, S O’Hare; M Fives, J Gorman, P Hurney; M Gorman, G Hurney, D Fives.

Sub: L Hurney for D Fives (60).

Referee: T O’Byrne (Erin’s Own).