The champions of 2007 and ’08 hadn’t been in the last four since 2012 and went into this as underdogs, with Nenagh having eliminiated champions Thurles CBS.
With the sides level at 0-5 each at half-time, De La Salle roared into the second half with Michael Mahony pointing inside 13 seconds before Harry Ruddle got his first point and then centre-back Paul Hennebry nailed a long-range effort.
When centre-forward Daniel Coady was fouled and the free was brought in for dissent, Ruddle again did the needful to make it 0-9 to 0-5. While Nenagh did eventually get going, they couldn’t come closer than within two points of their opponents.
De La Salle manager Dermot Dooley praised his players and also revealed there had been another, external, motivating factor.
“We got over Midleton and then we had a few weeks to train for this, even though pitches were hard to come by with the bad weather,” he said.
“We knew that the lads were committed and that they were going to put in a performance. Nenagh were every bit as good as us but the points after half-time put us in control.
“A member of the Waterford schools GAA — the man writing up the fixtures — published an email to me and 10 other schools, stating that today we would be eliminated and the Waterford championship would go ahead next week. I’d just like to thank him today for helping us get over the line today, I won’t mention his name but it gave us some motivation.”
Despite losing Jerome Cahill to injury inside two minutes, Nenagh had the better of the opening exchanges but their shooting wasn’t calibrated and they had to be content with only an early free from Mark Daniels.
De La Salle had Mahony withdrawn to midfield with Donnie Power playing as a sweeper, but that just meant that Nenagh’s Jake Morris was allowed to fulfil a similar role at the other end. While points in quick succession from Ruddle and then Michael Costigan put De La Salle 0-3 to 0-2 ahead, Nenagh then looked to have taken control.
With Robbie Quirke doing well at midfield, a nice Daniels point was followed by efforts from Keith Nealon and Bryan McLoughney to open up the biggest lead of the game by that stage, 0-5 to 0-3.
De La Salle showed that they weren’t about to fade, though. Ruddle converted another free and then set up Thomas Douglas only for Gavin O’Connor to get in a vital block just as he was about to shoot for goal. Eoin Daly ensured that the sides were level at half-time after Costigan kept a sideline cut in play and, upon the resumption, De La Salle pushed ahead.
A free and then a 65 from Daniels gave Nenagh hope only for Thomas Douglas and Daly pushed De La Salle clear again. Nenagh pushed Morris into attack and it reaped rewards as he scored two points but De La Salle always had a response, exemplified by Douglas’s fine score.
With five minutes left, Costigan could have wrapped things up for De La Salle but his kicked effort was just wide. It matter little, as a goal never looked like materialising at the other end. Daniels did get his sixth for Nenagh, but De La Salle sub Cormac McCann had the final say with their 13th to secure victory.
H Ruddle 0-5 (frees), E Daly, T Douglas 0-2 each, P Hennebry, M Costigan, M Mahony, C McCann 0-1 each.
M Daniels 0-6 (four frees, one 65), J Morris 0-2, K Nealon, B McLoughney 0-1 each.
R Ryan (Piltown); C Giles Doran (De La Salle), L Wall (De La Salle), G Cullinane (Passage); N Byrne (Ballygunner), P Hennebry (Mooncoin, Kilkenny), M Kearns (Mooncoin, Kilkenny); D Power (Passage), G Coppinger (De La Salle); H Ruddle (Ballygunner), D Coady (Erin’s Own), M Costigan (De La Salle); M Mahony (Ballygunner), T Douglas (DLS), E Daly (Erin’s Own).
B O’Sullivan (Ballygunner) for Coady (39-42, blood), C McCann (De La Salle) for Daly, D Walsh (Piltown) for Coppinger (both 52), O’Sullivan for Coady (54).
B Hogan (Kildangan); G O’Connor (Nenagh), D Molloy (Kildangan), J Morris (Nenagh); L Howard (Burgess), J Quigley (Kildangan), C Kelly (Kildangan); R Quirke (Cappawhite), A Loughnane (Kildangan); M Daniels (Silvermines), R Byrne (Portroe), R Mulrooney (Portroe); K Nealon (Burgess), D O’Meara (Kildangan), J Cahill (Kilruane MacDonaghs).
B McLoughney (Kildangan) for Cahill (2, injured), A Healy (Nenagh) for Howard (29).
R Moloney (Limerick).