Sad to report, they got poor value for their loyalty, but the De La Salle supporters at least have theconsolation of another Munster title to celebrate, their second in three years while the Thurles Sars fans, who roared on their side through a sterling second half comeback, have no such joy.
Truth be told, they weren’t very well served on the pitch yesterday by a side that rode its luck just once too often this season.
In the Tipperary semi-final, Sars got a last-minute goal from a 20m free by Pa Bourke to squeeze past Toomevara. In their Munstersemi-final, poor shooting at critical times by opponents Kilmallock helped Thurles to the win. But there was no such luck yesterday, however. Against a fired-up De La Salle, this was a very poor performance by the Tipperary champions, an error-strewn display capped off by some abysmal shooting, a total of 17 wides over the hour. The wait for that first Munster title goes on.
The flip side of all that, however, is that De La Salle were the better side. Their defence especially wasoutstanding and many of those Sars wides were the result of greatpressure by the Waterford men. The full-back line of Darren Russell, captain Ian Flynn and MichaelDoherty conceded nothing while the half-back trio of Bryan ‘Bull’ Phelan, Kevin Moran and young Stephen Daniels were also very dominant.
In such circumstances scores were always going to be hard to come by, but when you add in the icy ground conditions it was always more of a challenge for the forwards. Yesterday, the Thurles Sars attack simply wasn’t up to it, and in the first half they didn’t look up for it either. Where De La Salle were hunting in packs, tearing into every ball, every tackle, with little regard for their own well-being, Thurles were standing off and were dominated in the physical exchanges.
When they did get involved, too often it was illegally, and yellow cards for five different Sars players in that opening half told a story of frustration.
The half-time score line of 0-7 to 0-2 also told a story, of De La Salle dominance and of an upset in the making.
The second quarter was the crucial period. In the 14th minute the game was tied, 0-2 apiece, courtesy of pointed frees by John Mullane and Bryan Phelan (De La Salle) and a point each from play by Sars wing-forwards Aidan McCormack and Pa Bourke.
After that, however, it was De La Salle dominating the scoreboard for the remainder of the half. In a masterful psychological stroke by the De La Salle management, instead of waiting for Thurles specialist man-marker Michael Cahill to come to Mullane, the De La Salle flyer and current All Star went to him. He started in the right corner instead of right wing, where he had been named and where he had played in their semi-final win over Sars of Cork. It worked too, and in the time remaining before the break Mullane scored four more points, each one invaluable, two of those from play, and that, along with a point from John Keane (formerly of Borrisoleigh) put De La Salle in pole position at half-time.
With the breeze in their favour, and surely having had a dressing-down in the dressing-room, Thurles Sars upped the ante on the restart and a succession of points (two from placed balls by wing-back Stephen Lillis, their outstanding performer on the day) had them within one in the 48th minute, 0-8 to 0-7.
At this stage they were completely dominant, but their wides tally continued to rise and oh, how it cost them.
They had confined De La Salle to just one shot at the posts in that period, another John Keane point, but when teenage substitute Eoin Madigan shot over a beauty from wide on the left in the 55th minute for De La Salle, Sars now found themselves in a dogfight, and though Pa Bourke, with a gutsy free in the 57th minute, did bring the margin back again to a single points, De La Salle were not going to be denied. Gutsy performance by the men from Waterford city, great heart and courage,deserved win, but a classic this was not.
Scorers for De La Salle: J Mullane 0-5 (0-3 frees); J Keane 0-2; E Madigan, B Phelan (free), 0-1 each.
Scorers for Thurles Sars: P Bourke 0-3 (0-2 frees); A McCormack 0-2; S Lillis 0-2 (0-1 free, 0-1 65); L Corbett 0-1.
Subs for De La Salle: E Madigan (Barrett 45); D McGrath (Watt 61).
Subs for Thurles Sarsfields: M O’Brien (Enright 42); J Corbett (Ruth 45); B O’Dwyer (A Kennedy 52).
Referee: J Sexton (Ballyhea).