Friday 21 July 2017

Flynn hails 'character' as De La Salle prosper

De La Salle 0-9
Thurles Sars' 0-8
Munster Club SHC Final

De La Salle players and manager Michael Ryan celebrate after beating Thurles Sarsfields in the Munster Club SHC final at Pairc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
De La Salle players and manager Michael Ryan celebrate after beating Thurles Sarsfields in the Munster Club SHC final at Pairc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

A matter of respect -- that was the rallying cry of De La Salle Waterford as they embarked on their campaign in county and provincial championship, and now who dares to look their players in the eye and say they do not deserve to rank among the elite?

The Decies men are kings of Munster for the second time in three years, and now they look forward to a challenge for the All-Ireland crown that eluded them when they came up against the wrecking crew that was Portumna in 2008/09.

Yesterday at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, on a pitch that was just about playable, with large swathes of the surface that were in the shadow of the huge main stand yielding little to the thaw, De La Salle got the job done.

It was not pretty, it was not spectacular but when it came to the crunch, the extra smidgin of resolve and desire that came from hard-earned experience got them over the line.

A point-winning margin in a low-scoring game is not good for the heart if you are a De La Salle supporter but in the end, it's all about scorelines and who goes down in the record books as champions.

This was not winter hurling -- this was arctic hurling, with a bitterly cold wind and ground temperatures only a couple of degrees above zero compounded by a low-lying sun that made judgment of the sliotar a chancy affair in certain parts of the ground.

The pre-match forecasts suggested a showdown between Waterford's John Mullane and Tipperary's Lar Corbett would be crucial, but as it turned out, the team efforts around them decided the game.

Mullane and Corbett were never permitted the space or time to get into their stride and make a spectacular surge for goal, but Mullane did contribute handsomely on the scoresheet, with five points, three from frees, to his credit.

Thurles -- who have never won the Munster club title -- might have snatched the game at the death, but they really lost the plot in the first half.

De La Salle owned the midfield area for most of the first 30 minutes, while in the attacking areas, Thurles were disjointed and struggling for possession. And when they did get sight of the De La Salle posts, their inaccuracy from play and placed balls cost them dear. Any side that gets just two points in a half -- and hits nine wides -- is always going to struggle.

Hard to believe, but the only Thurles scores in that first half came from a seventh-minute point from play by Aidan McCormack and another by Pa Bourke three minutes later.

Those points levelled the scores at 0-2 each -- De La Salle had opened the scoring with a first-minute point from a free by Mullane and Bryan Phelan's point from a free in the sixth minute.

For the rest of the half it was hard going for the Tipp men. Big Kevin Moran at centre-back was immense for the Waterford side and he received a couple of knocks -- for which three different Thurles players were booked -- but that didn't affect his performance.

Mullane put some daylight between the sides with three quick points in just two minutes around the midway stage of the half. Two were well-taken frees from right angles and the other was a neat piece of opportunism from a defensive clearance.

At 0-5 to 0-2 it looked ominous for Thurles and their pain was increased by a John Keane point and another by Mullane just before half-time.

Heading for a walkover? "No way" was the view of De La Salle skipper Ian Flynn, who was commanding at the heart of a diligent and die-hard defensive unit.

"We knew Thurles are a fantastic team with fabulous players and they'd come out with all guns blazing," he said.

"We nearly let it slip away from us in the end, but the character of these lads brought us through. The work-rate was a key factor and also the fact that our lads never know when they're beaten."

That was a pretty fair summing up of the second half. Thurles got themselves to within three points by the 40th minute at 0-8 to 0-5. Corbett got the first score of the second half and two points by Stephen Lillis, one from a '65' and the other from a free, brightened the outlook for the Tipp side.

Steadying

In amongst those scores came an important steadying point for De La Salle via Richie Ruth and for the next 10 minutes play ebbed and flowed with scores hard come by.

Aidan McCormack and Bourke (free) raised the decibel levels to way beyond that expected from a 1,613 crowd, with scores that left Thurles behind by just a point at 0-8 to 0-7 with 10 minutes to go. And those hard-fought final 10 minutes, plus two added on by referee John Sexton, were enormously tense.

Sub Eoin Madigan crucially gave De La Salle a two-point margin with a fine long-range point in the 55th minute and although Bourke got one back from a free with three minutes left, the Decies men held on grimly to their lead.

"You couldn't have asked for more effort from our lads, but I suppose that big wide count told against us in the end," said disappointed Thurles half-back David Kennedy.

Finally, a word of condolence to referee John Sexton, who turned up for duty and gave his full concentration to the match as scheduled, despite the death of his father a few days ago. A minute's silence was observed bofore the match as a mark of respect to the late Mr Sexton.

Scorers -- De La Salle: J Mullane 0-5 (0-3f), J Keane 0-2, B Phelan (0-1f), E Madigan 0-1 each. Thurles Sarsfields: P Bourke 0-3 (0-2f), A McCormack, S Lillis (0-1f, 0-1 '65') 0-2 each, L Corbett 0-1.

De La Salle -- S Brenner; D Russell, I Flynn, M Doherty; C Watt, K Moran, S Daniels; B Phelan, D Twomey; P Nevin, D Greene, J Mullane; J Dillon, E Barrett, J Keane. Subs: E Madigan for E Barrett (45); D McGrath for C Watt (60).

Thurles Sarsfields -- P McCormack; D Maher, K O'Gorman, M Cahill; D Kennedy, P Maher, S Lillis; A Kennedy, M Gleeson; A McCormack, L Corbett, D Maher; J Enright, P Bourke, R Ruth. Subs: M O'Brien for J Enright (41); J Corbett for R Ruth (44); B O'Dwyer for A Kennedy (56).

Ref --J Sexton (Cork).

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