The Waterford champions saw off their Cork counterparts Sarsfields by the minimum in extra time at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday in the Munster club SHC semi-final in a game that had a little bit of everything – controversy, goals, equalising heroics – but never really sizzled.
It was an exciting finish given the game’s beginning: on 12 minutes it was two points to one in favour of De La Salle.
Goalkeeper and Sars captain Alan Kennedy had made the first of several fine one-on-one saves to deny De La Salle a goal when his side got their first green flag on 15 minutes: Daniel Roche dropped a long shot into the De La Salle square and when the ball broke loose Cian McCarthy was onto it quickly, his fine ground stroke sending the ball clean through the net for a goal.
On the puck-out John Mullane hit a 25-metre free off the post and Sars swept downfield, won a 65 pointed by Cian McCarthy, and Daniel Kearney added a point – 1-4 to 0-3.
De La Salle responded with Daniels, Páidí Nevin and Bryan Phelan points before Sars stuck again for goal.
With two minutes to the break, Michael Cussen dished out a quick pass to Kieran Murphy near the De La Salle goal and the Cork captain finished to the net from a tight angle. Some Waterford observers, including De La Salle keeper Stevie Brenner, felt Cussen’s pass was illegal, and the custodian saw yellow for his protests.
Kennedy had to pull off a fine save late in the half from John Keane to preserve Sars’ advantage, 2-5 to 0-6 at the break.
De La Salle rallied after half-time, cutting Sars’ lead to two within six minutes thanks to Mullane (two frees) and an inspirational Eddie Barrett point from halfway, but Mullane missed a scoreable free on 38 minutes that would have left a point in it.
From the puckout Cian McCarthy’s free made it a three-point game again, and Gavin O’Loughlin and Tadhg Óg Murphy quickly chipped in with two points of their own to put five between them.
Game over? Not quite. Phelan (free) and Nevin points signalled De La Salle’s defiance, but they again missed some scoreable chances, and with the game running down to a close Sars still had two points to spare.
De La Salle won a 65 on 56 minutes which Phelan put wide but referee Seamus Roche deemed a Sars player to have jogged across Phelan in an effort to distract him, and moved the 65 closer. Phelan converted the chance the second time but with time pushing into the 62nd minute, it still looked black for De La Salle, a point adrift.
Enter man-of-the-match Kevin Moran with a magnificent equaliser from eighty yards.
“The score of a lifetime,” his manager, Michael Ryan, called it afterwards: extra time.
The teams exchanged points in the first portion of extra time – Sars through Daniel Kearney (two) and Tadhg Óg Murphy, and De La Salle through Mullane, Dean Twomey and an inspirational Moran effort: 2-14 to 0-20 at half-time in extra time.
Just as it looked like there was no separating them, however, De La Salle got ahead: Mullane and McCarthy swapped frees before promising teenager Jake Dillon wrote himself into the history books with the winner.
At the final whistle, Sars’ manager John Crowley was devastated
He said: “I’m disappointed for the lads, they put in a huge effort but look, that’s just the way it is. We got two good goals, we were trying to hit the jugular, but a few decisions went against us at crucial stages . . . it’s just very disappointing.”
The decision to move in Bryan Phelan’s 65 late in normal time?
“He (referee Seamus Roche) said it was for jogging across,” said Crowley. “I thought there were some harsh decisions but sometimes they go for you, sometimes they don’t.”
His De La Salle counterpart was jubilant.
“Semi-finals are all about winning,” said Michael Ryan. “Waterford teams have often played in really good games and come out on the wrong side. All we were interested in was winning, and coming down to win was a real test. To give Sars a five-point lead, reel them in, give them another five-point lead and dig out a win means there’s great credit due to the boys.”
Ryan was confident before extra-time: “When it went to extra time I felt we’d win because we have a very high level of fitness. But it could have gone either way. It was a victory for honesty, for commitment, and for the heart that’s in these guys.”
* The AIB Munster club SHC final between De La Salle of Waterford and Thurles Sars of Tipperary has been fixed for Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday November 28, throw in 2pm.
Scorers for De La Salle: B. Phelan 0-6 (0-4 fs, 0-2 65s); J. Mullane 0-5 (0-3 fs); P. Nevin 0-4; K. Moran 0-2; D.Twomey, E. Barrett, J. Dillon, E. Madigan, S. Daniels 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sars: C. McCarthy 1-6 (0-5 fs, 0-1 65); K. Murphy 1-1; D. Kearney, G. O’Loughlin 0-3 each; T. Og Murphy 0-2.
Subs for Sars: R. Murphy for Cussen, 55; M. Cussen for R. Murphy, HT(ET); P. Ryan for D. Kearney, 73; E. O’Sullivan for W. Kearney, 75
Subs for DLS: E. Madigan for Watt, 40; L. Hayes for Keane, 56; J. Keane for Greene, 78 (ET).
Referee: S. Roche (Tipperary).