However — and this is important — De La Salle’s two county titles have come in the last three years, and immediately after they won their first, in 2007, they went on to win the Munster championship. Thurles Sars have yet to achieve that.
What De La Salle have won in the last few years is a massive reflection on the great work being done at underage and adult level. I have to single out one man though; no, not Derek McGrath, nor Dermot Dooley, the two guys who coached the college to the Harty Cup and All-Ireland double, and did it two years in a row, but John Mullane.
John is the heart and soul of this team, a guy who, through his exploits with Waterford, has put De La Salle on the hurling map. He’s an outstanding clubman, always there whether it’s championship or challenge, always contributing.
I was involved with Kilmallock this year and we played them early on in a challenge game in Waterford; it was a terrific match, and I knew then they were capable of doing great things this year. John played in that game, gave it everything, and they pipped us by a couple of points, but I have to say I was really impressed by De La Salle.
They have a good, balanced side, a lot of youth but a lot of strength also, and a very honest side. The half-back line is a huge line for them, young Stephen Daniels, Kevin Moran and Bryan ‘Bull’ Phelan, and won’t be easily by-passed. Fair play to Michael Ryan, the former Waterford football manager, he’s doing a great job with them.
To Thurles, and will I ever forget them! Being honest, I didn’t think I’d be commenting on this final, I thought we’d be in it, but Thurles put an end to that! It took a huge amount of character and courage from them to do so; Kilmallock really put it up to them, out-hurled them for long passages, but Thurles dug out the win.
Their four big players are exactly that — big players, and Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher, Lar Corbett and Pa Bourke all contributed handsomely on the day. Along with those, however, they also have the likes of Michael Gleeson in midfield, Stephen Lillis, Denis Maher, and a very strong bench. Aidan McCormack — still a minor — and Michael O’Brien came on against Kilmallock and did huge damage.
I expect a right good game, though it’s a shame it was brought to Cork — should have been a halfway house such as Carrick-on-Suir, where you’d have had a great atmosphere. A winner? I did say that the team that beat us in Kilmallock would go all the way — Thurles Sars.