The De La Salle full forward scored 1-7 from frees, and his immense contribution played a significant part in Mount Sion’s fall by the wayside in a highly-charged and dramatic encounter which saw intercounty stars Ken McGrath and Eoin McGrath sent off in injury time for verbal abuse of the referee.
With 34 county senior championship successes behind them, against De La Salle’s paltry two, the last achieved in 1914, Mount Sion went into this semi-final raging favourites.
But, casting disdainful eyes on the reputation of their celebrated opponents, De La Salle, after a hesitant start, proved themselves the more accomplished side over the hour and thoroughly merited their historic achievement.
After Ken McGrath gave Mount Sion a two-point lead after five minutes, De la Salle gradually pieced their game together. With centre-forward McGrath in excellent shooting form, Mount Sion led by 0-3 to 0-2 at the end of the first quarter. But three successful free conversions by the 19-year-old Quirke launched De la Salle to the front in the 23rd minute and they never looked back.
Six yellow cards were dished out in the first-half by referee Sean Michael Kelly, four in the first five minutes, but tempers eventually cooled.
Apart from Ken McGrath, none of the more established Mount Sion players on the Waterford team made their presence felt in what was a disastrous first half for the champions.
In contrast, De la Salle’s unsung heroes, full-back Ian Flynn, midfielders Padraig Nevin and Kevin Moran, together with Quirke up front, put their name up in lights as the challengers opened up a 0-8 to 0-5 lead at half time.
When wing back Darren Russell and Quirke, with another converted free, stretched De la Salle’s lead to five points immediately after the resumption the die was well and truly cast for Mount Sion.
But, giving added credence to the old adage that champions die hard, Mount Sion did not relinquish their crown without one hell of a fight. Two truly spectacular points from Eoin McGrath had them breathing down De La Salle’s necks but then came the turning point.
With Mount Sion a point adrift and fighting with great vigour to retain their title, calamity befell them. Goalkeeper Ian O’Regan was penalised for holding onto possession and from the resultant 20 metre free Quirke billowed the Mount Sion net. Although Mount Sion continued to press in waves near the end, it was Quirke’s goal from the free that was primarily responsible for De la Salle’s great moment of triumph.
Quirke was also on the scoreboard later in the half to consolidate De La Salle’s lead of four points coming up the home straight. But three points from frees in rapid succession from Ken McGrath threw the game back again into the melting pot.
But De La Salle held firm and as Mount Sion vigorously sought the equaliser, their frustrations at being denied were graphically illustrated by the dismissals of the two McGraths.
De La Salle now meet the winners of the other semi-final featuring Ballygunner and Lismore.
: De la Salle: J. Quirke 1-8 (1-7f), L. Lawlor, P. Nevin, D. Russell, D. McGrath 0-1 each. Mount Sion: K. McGrath 0-8 (0-5f), E. Kelly 0-2, E. McGrath 0-2, K. Stafford, M. White 0-1 each.
: S. Brenner, A. Kelly, E. Flynn, M. Doherty, D. Russell, B. Phelan, C. Watt, P. Nevin, K. Moran, L. Hayes, B. Farrell, D. McGrath, J. Mullaney, J. Quirke, L. Lawlor. Subs: M. Barden for McGrath, W. Power for Hayes.
: I. O’Regan, J. O’Meara, A. Kirwan, K. Flynn, J. Cleere, T. Browne, B. Flannery, E. McGrath, F. O’Shea, E. Kelly, K. McGrath, K. Stafford, M. White, R. McGrath, B. Browne. Subs: J. O’Farrell for O’Shea, D. Kelly for B. Browne, P. Kelly for Stafford.
: S.N. Kelly (Shamrocks).