DE LA Salle stormed to a second Waterford senior hurling title yesterday, reversing their group stages defeat at the hands of Ballygunner as they ran out easy winners in Walsh Park.
Defeated 3-20 to 0-14 during the summer by yesterday’s opponents, De La Salle turned things around in fine style, with three second-half goals putting Ballygunner to the sword.
It was a game that was slow to come to the boil: the teams couldn’t be faulted for effort, but despite perfect conditions for hurling, the final didn’t crackle in a lacklustre first-half.
De La Salle’s tactical gambit was the move of John Mullane from the full-forward line to centre-half-forward, presumably with the intention of testing Fergal Hartley’s speed. Ballygunner countered with the switch of Philip Mahony to centre-back, where he did well on the Waterford county star.
The Gunners’ problems lay further upfield, where De La Salle held sway in the half-back line in particular: a pre-throw-in move sent Bryan Phelan from midfield to wing-back in a direct swap with Conan Watt, and he, Stephen Daniels and the imperious Kevin Moran at centre-back dominated proceedings.
In that first-half, Ballygunner were reduced to shots from distance and the free-taking prowess of Stephen Power, as they made no headway against a resolute De La Salle defence.
At the other end De La Salle were also relying on the dead ball, with Mullane unerring and David Greene chipping in with two points. It might have grown worse for Ballygunner on 24 minutes when Mullane shipped a heavy challenge and then, soon after, Jake Dillon was floored near goal. Neither incident drew a whistle from referee Michael Wadding, much to the annoyance of those in white and red.
Four up at the break, eight points to four, De La Salle began the second-half in fine style, Mullane hitting over a superb point from the wing and adding a free to give his side a six points lead.
JJ Hutchinson and David O’Sullivan cut that to four, but Mullane added another free before the game was blown wide open.
On 40 minutes Páidíú Nevin broke through a knot of players 40 yards from goal and the De La Salle man kept his nerve, soloing through to bury a fine goal from close range.
Within 60 seconds De La Salle had the ball in the net again: Dean Twomey beat the cover on the right wing and bore down on goal, finishing neatly in the corner.
At that stage it was 2-11 to six points, and people started heading for the exits. Four minutes later that trickle of early departures became a flood, thanks to Nevin’s second goal.
Twomey fielded a long Stevie Brenner puck-out before slipping a clever pass to Nevin, whose finish made it 3-11 to 0-7.
With the game over as a contest, Ballygunner picked up some consolation scores, David O’Sullivan pulling first-time on a loose ball for a goal, while free-taker Stephen Power’s late penalty soared over, rather than under, the bar.
An eight-point defeat didn’t flatter the champions, who have now added a second title to their inaugural win back in 2008. They’ll fancy their chances in the Munster club championship, given their recent – 2008 – experience in winning that title.
“I think we’ve finally got the respect we deserve,” said John Mullane at the final whistle.
“Take our backs, that half-back line of Stephen Daniels, Bryan Phelan and Kevin Moran, our full-back line – they’re as good as any six not just in Waterford, in Ireland.
“The goals we got today, Páidí Nevin and Dean Twomey wouldn’t be the usual lads you’d see getting goals, but thank God they got them today. We’re a do-or-die team. We’ve proven that down through the years. When it comes to the knock-out we’re a very hard team to beat.”
Other contestants in the Munster club hurling championship have been warned.
Scorers for De La Salle: J. Mullane 0-9 (0-7 fs); P. Nevin 2-0; D. Twomey 1-0; D. Greene 0-2; L Hayes, E. Madigan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballygunner: S. Power 0-7 (04 fs, 0-1 65, 0-1 p); D. O’Sullivan 1-2; JJ Hutchinson, Philip Mahony 0-1 each.
Subs for Ballygunner: N. Waldron for T. Power, (46); B. Coughlan for J. Kearney, (50). M. Kearney for JJ Hutchinson (53).
Subs for De La Salle: E. Madigan for J. Dillon, (47); L. Hayes for Greene, (50); D. McGrath for J. Keane, (54); P. Kennedy for Doherty, (58).
Referee: M. Wadding (Roanmore).
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