Passage may have been impressive in qualifying but it was quickly evident after the early stages of this game that they were not in the same class as the city side.
Back in August, De La Salle’s ambitions of a second title in three years suffered a setback when Ballygunner hammered them by 15 points. However, on the evidence of this display, they are well on the way to re-capturing the form which saw them go all the way to the All-Ireland club final two years ago.
“We never expected it to be (so) easy. Passage were unbeaten all year. We expected a stern test,” John Mullane admitted afterwards. “But we can only look after our end and thankfully the scoreboard reflected a good performance.’’
The Waterford star was central to their success, operating at full-forward where he invariably had the beating of county team-mate Noel Connors.
“We are after working on it the last couple of weeks ago since we were heavily beaten by Ballygunner. We are after putting the heads down. There is a great bond in the camp, we are all playing for each other – which is great!’’ Starting with a slight wind advantage, Passage had the dream start with a third minute goal from Eoin Kelly. However, it was a case of flattering to deceive. Once Mullane had the ball in the net within two minutes, De La Salle quickly moved into a position of control which they never looked like relinquishing.
Mullane gave terrific leadership up front, but he was one of only a large number of players who were able to influence the outcome. He received good, steady support from the players around him – Jake Dillon and John Keane in the corners and impressive minor Páidí Nevin on the right wing.
Overall, De La Salle’s dominance was so complete because they dominated at midfield and Kevin Moran virtually monopolised play at centre-back. Additionally, Bryan Phelan was prominent on his right and Michael Doherty in the left corner excelled all through.
The inevitable consequence of such mastery in key areas was that Passage struggled to make openings, specifically in getting decent ball to Eoin Kelly.
De La Salle had accumulated 2-7 (their second goal coming from John Keane) before Passage got their second score of the game in the 21st minute from a well-struck Eoin Kelly free. At the break it was 2-8 to 1-3.
It was much the same story for the second half, with Owen Connors pointing for Passage soon after the resumption. And, while Owen Connors was much more involved, the attack as a unit failed to register a score until substitute Joseph McCleane got their second goal near the end. And, long before then, supporters in the stand with access to a radio were much more in tune with what was happening in the other semi-final!
Scorers for De La Salle: J. Mullane (1-5, two frees); J. Keane (1-1); P. Nevin (0-4); D. Twomey (0-3); C. Watt, J. Dillon and L. Hayes (0-2 each); B. Phelan and E. Madigan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Passage: E. Kelly (1-3, two frees); J. McCleane (1-0); T. Connors and O. Connors (0-1 each).
DE LA SALLE: S. Brenner; D. Russell, I. Flynn, M. Doherty; B. Phelan, K. Moran, S. Daniels; C. Watt, D. Twomey; P. Nevin, D. Greene, E. Barrett; J. Dillon, J. Mullane, J. Keane.
Subs: O. Keevers for Watt (inj. 41); L. Hayes for Greene (47); P. Kennedy for Daniels (49); E. Madigan for Keevers (inj. 51); K. Byrne for Phelan (60).
PASSAGE: E. Lynch; J. Flood, N. Connors (capt.), M. Doherty; J. Upton, B. Carey, M. Wyse; N. Quinlan, K. Fitzgerald; O. Connors, T. Connors, C. Carey; A. Connors, E. Kelly, P. Walsh.
Subs: B. Fitzgerald for A. Connors (40: J. McCleane for Carey (41); L. Carey for Flood (50); E. Quann for T. Connors (61).
Referee: Tommy O’Sullivan (Cappoquin).