It was the third time this season the Mid-Cork school had defeated their city opponents, after victories in the group stages of the competition and in the Simcox Cup final as well.
Chiselling a two-point win after enduring a ferocious second-half onslaught from Coláiste Chríost Rí was all the more admirable considering De La Salle’s injury setbacks in the build-up to this game. The previous weekend saw regular full-back Robbie O’Dwyer ruled out for the rest of the campaign after breaking his leg in a club game while first-choice centre-back Sean O’Leary was sidelined with a shoulder injury. O’Leary may be fit in time for the final on March 4, yet in his absence, De La Salle managed to reorganise their rearguard successfully to keep Coláiste Chríost Rí at bay.
“We got bad news during the week about the two lads,” admitted De La Salle manager Eric Graham. “But I think we did just enough to hold on. Our defence was brilliant and I think that’s what won us the game. Críost Rí are a great team and they came at us in the second-half. But we never allowed them to draw level and we got a point here and there to stay ahead. It had been raining but I thought the pitch was fantastic and it was a real battle. We’re absolutely delighted.”
De La Salle’s second quarter display when they outscored Coláiste Chríost Rí by 1-3 to 0-1 was pivotal to their success. The key score in the game arrived in the 20th minute when Daniel Twomey displayed outstanding vision to sweep in a crossfield pass that midfielder Cathal Vaughan bounded onto before finishing clinically to the net.
Vaughan and his midfield colleague Peter Kelleher were dominant in the first-half and that allowed the likes of Pa Lucey and John Murphy to notch some fine points. Indeed De La Salle’s lead could have been greater at the interval only for errant shooting.
Coláiste Chríost Rí had struggled to gain a foothold in the first-half although they nearly received the boost of a goal before the break, only for Ronan Scully’s low shot to bounce off the post.
Despite the deficit they faced, they emerged for the second-half in determined fashion with last year’s Cork minor Paul Fitzgerald the principal architect of their revival at midfield. Stephen Cronin and Enda Dennehy excelled in defence. Gordon Joyce, Conor Horgan and Fitzgerald were to the fore on the scoreboard as they trimmed the gap to a single point by the 43rd minute, 1-6 to 0-8.
However, De La Salle stood firm and never managed to let their opponents draw level. Darren Kelly and Sean Kelleher spearheaded their rearguard who withstood the Críost Rí pressure and a late James Moynihan point proved the insurance score for the Macroom school.
De La Salle’s thoughts now turn to the decider in three weeks’ time when they will seek to emulate the class of 2006 who brought Corn Uí Mhuirí honours back to the school and atone for the disappointment of their narrow defeat in the 2010 final.
“It’s fantastic to be there again,” admits Graham. “We’ve won one and we’ve lost one so we know what it feels like. I was just saying to the lads inside in the dressing-room that there’s no point being in it if you don’t come away with the victory. There’ll be a great buzz around the town and the surrounding clubs now before the final.”
Scorers for De La Salle (Macroom): C Vaughan 1-2, P Lucey 0-3 (0-1f), J Murphy 0-2, J Moynihan, D Twomey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Coláiste Chríost Rí: C Horgan 0-5 (0-1f), P Fitzgerald (0-2f), G Joyce 0-2 each, B Madden 0-1.
DE LA SALLE (MACROOM): D Dineen (Macroom); S Kelleher (Aghinagh), D Kelly (Macroom), K Manning (Iveleary); F Buckley (Kilmichael), S O’Sullivan (Aghabullogue), S Creedon (Macroom); P Kelleher (Kilmichael), C Vaughan (Iveleary); J Murphy (Macroom), J Moynihan (Canovee), P Lucey (Macroom); P Grainger (Kilmurry), D Twomey (Kilmichael), D Horgan (Macroom). Subs: P Berhanu (Kilmurry) for Grainger (inj) (25).
COLÁISTE CHRÍOST RÍ: C Keane (St Finbarr’s); TJ Murphy (Ballymartle), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), D O’Neill (Nemo Rangers); I Lucey (Douglas), E Dennehy (St Finbarr’s), P Kelleher (St Finbarr’s); A Nolan (St Michael’s), P Fitzgerald (Douglas); R Scully, C Horgan (Nemo Rangers), B Madden (Nemo Rangers); D Scannell (St Finbarr’s), G Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), J Horgan (Nemo Rangers).
Referee: Conor Lane (Lyre).