De La Salle were nine points up after just quarter of an hour and it looked like Our Lady’s were out of their depth. But once they settled they almost matched the champions and were far closer to the winners than the eventual five-point margin suggested.
This second successive group win all but guarantees the champions their place in the knockout quarter-final stage, and victory over pointless Doon CBS in their concluding game will put them into the last eight as a seeded side.
Their inability, however, to capitalise on their blistering start will be a cause for concern, and for lengthy spells in the second half it was Our Lady’s, despite playing against the wind, who dominated the territorial exchanges.
They lacked the necessary firepower in attack however, while De La Salle can also thank their outstanding goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe.
Parading six of last year’s winning side, De La Salle began in style. Owen Connors’ pointed free in the second minute gave them a lead they would never relinquish, and the first of their three crucial goals came as early as the fifth minute when corner forward Jake Dillon batted Connors’ inch-perfect free to the net from close range.
The losers’ opening score came on seven minutes from Eanna Murray and the elegant midfielder went on to turn in a powerhouse display.
But on 20 minutes Harley Barnes cracked home a superb third goal for De La Salle, and leading by 3-4 to 0-2, the only question at that stage seemed to be their eventual margin of victory.
But to their credit, Our Lady’s dug deep, and they dominated the remaining 10 minutes of the half, with Dan McCormack, Aidan Fogarty, Pa Lupton and Willie Eviston all chipping in with quality scores, and their six-point half-time deficit, 3-5 to 0-8, had become a much more manageable one.
Another Lupton point got the losers off on the right second half footing, and the champions had goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe to thank in the 40th minute for a magnificent save from McCormack, at the expense of a “65’’ which Murray converted.
The margin was down to four after Murray fired over another point, and the pressure was all on De La Salle’s goal.
De La Salle were restricted to a solitary point — from a Connors free — for almost 27 minutes of the half, and when the wing forward found the range again from a prodigious effort, it was a point they had very badly needed.
Within seconds, Killian Fitzgerald rifled over another, effectively sealing Templemore’s fate, although Murray replied with his sixth point before O’Keeffe was called on again for another piece of goalkeeping magic to deny the losers at the death.
Scorers for De La Salle: O. Connors(1-3, frees); J. Dillon(1-1); H. Barnes (1-0); K. Fitzgerald(0-2); P. McCarthy, P. Mahony(0-1) each.
Scorers for Our Lady’s: E. Murray (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 “65’’); D. McCormack (0-2); P. Lupton(0-2); A. Fogarty, W. Eviston(0-1) each.
DE LA SALLE: S. O’Keeffe; J. Flood, J. Ruddle-Redmond, S. O’Keeffe; S. Kearns, E. Madigan, M. Wyse; A. Murphy, K. Fitzgerald; O. Connors, H. Barnes, P. McCarthy; P. Mahony, N. Clifford, J. Dillon.
Subs: R. Spencer for Flood; G. Bambrick for Barnes; B. Power for Mahony.
OUR LADY’S: M. Kelly; P. O’Kennedy, L. Butler, P. Ryan; A. Ryan, W. Ryan, H. Maher; L. Treacy, E. Murray; E. Fitzpatrick, K. Johnson, A. Fogarty; P. Lupton, W. Eviston, D. McCormack.
Sub: R. Bergin for Johnson.
Referee: David Copps, Ballyhea.