A SIDE from the historical signifi-cance of De La Salle being onlythe second Waterford team to qualify for the AIB All-Ireland Club SHC final since Mount Sion in 1982, the really outstanding feature of yesterday’s semi-final in Parnell Park was the breathtaking effort of both sides.
Together, they produced a memorable contest to match any in the long history of the competition and, while it was ultimately decided by De La Salle’s stronger play in extra-time, Cushendall were unfortunate to be denied victory at the end of 60 minutes.
Inspired by a 36th minute Shane McNaughton goal they enjoyed a two points advantage for the last three minutes until wing-back Stephen Daniels picked off a point in the first minute of injury time for the Munster side. And then, the outstanding Brian Phelan rescued them with a marvellously struck sideline ball from the 65 metre line. And, for the Northern side, that was all the more heartbreaking because they had battled bravely through the last quarter a man down.
De La Salle had the perfect start when up and coming U-21 star Dean Twomey had the ball in the net after only four minutes. Yet, they were to find it very difficult to impose their will on the game. In fact, while the more accomplished side over the opening quarter, they were subjected to fairly continuous pressure resulting from the tenacity of Cushendall’s defence and, at the other end, from the probing and skilful play of Neil McManus.
Wing-forward Lee Hayes gained some good possession and responded with two excellent points.
Overall, there was little enough between the teams, with Cushendall scoring some excellent long-range points – McManus contributing one particularly good one and Aidan Delargy hitting two.
Cushendall’s stubborn resistance was finally rewarded with an equaliser from Shane McNaughton (son of the legendary ‘Sambo’) at the end of the half to leave the score at 1-6 to 0-9.
Inside the opening four minutes of the second-half the teams exchanged scores, through John Mullane and free-taker Karl McKeegan, and very soon after that came the goal from McNaughton.
De La Salle wasted four chances of scores before they got back on the scoreboard through a Phelan free in the 45th minute, just after Cushendall forward Declan McKillop was sent off after getting a second yellow card.
But Cushendall reacted well with Aidan Delargy doing some great work around midfield and later on at corner-forward and Conor McCambridge proving a good addition to the attack. And, they had every reason to be optimistic after a crucial McManus score saw them lead by two points in the 57th minute — until Daniels helped inspire De La Salle’s recovery and Phelan emerged the hero with his dramatic levelling score to make it 1-13 each.
Resuming with 15 players, the effort over the third quarter may have taken its toll on Cushendall. They were never as convincing, whereas De La Salle stepped up on their performance, with Kevin Moran dominant at centre-back and several substitutions further strengthening the effort.
They had a two points lead at the end of the first period and, while there was every possibility of Cushendall forcing a replay when trailing by just a point after eight minutes of the second period, vital catches under pressure from Phelan and Moran provided the platform for a more involved Mullane to score a late point and add another chapter to a wonderful fairytale campaign.
Scorers for De La Salle: B Phelan 0-6 (4f, 2 sideline); J Mullane 0-5; D Twomey 1-0; L Hayes 0-3; P Nevin 0-2; J Quirke, D McGrath, S Daniels D Greene & B Farrell 0-1 each.
Cushendall: K McKeegan 0-5 (5f); C McCambridge (1f) and N McManus, 0-4 each; S McNaughton 1-1; A Delargy 0-3; A Graffin & S Delargy 0-1 each.
DE LA SALLE: S Brenner; A Kelly, I Flynn, M Doherty; D Russell, K Moran, S Daniels; B Phelan, C Watt; P Nevin, D McGrath, L Hayes; J Quirke, J Mullane (capt), D Twomey.
Subs: T Kearney for Russell, 41; D Greene for Kelly, 44; Kelly for McGrath, et; B Farrell for Watt, 76; J Foran for Hayes, 80.
CUSHENDALL: F McAuley; O Scullion, K Elliott, M McCambridge; C Carson, A Graffin, D McNaughton; K McKeegan, P McGill; D McKillop, B Delargy, S Delargy; S McNaughton, N McManus, A Delargy.
Subs: C McCambridge for Carson, 21; Carson for B Delargy, 58; Martin Burke was introduced for extra-time, replacing player sent off; O Laverty for S McNaughton; B Delargy for A Delargy, both 67; B McNaughton for Elliott, 76.
Referee: E Morris (Dublin).
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