Extra special Moran inspires DLS
Mammoth late leveller sets up thrilling triumph
De La Salle and Sarsfields have a propensity for serving up thrilling matches at this time of the year -- and they didn't disappoint at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday.
A full-blooded semi-final eventually went De La Salle's way but only after extra-time had been forced by a magnificent equalising point from the Waterford champions' centre-back Kevin Moran, who had the conviction to drive over from virtually his own 65-metre line to level the sides at 2-11 to 0-17.
Referee Seamus Roche had allowed for two minutes of added-time and Moran's effort was splitting the posts with a further 44 seconds played. He ended it there. But it was no more than De La Salle deserved for their persistence and the balance of possession they enjoyed, which they didn't always capitalise on.
In that sense, Sarsfields captain and goalkeeper Alan Kennedy had come to the rescue on at least three occasions and John Mullane's shooting, from frees and general play, was curiously off-key.
That only two of De La Salle's 22 points came from Mullane's stick in general play illustrates the spread of influence they had.
But by the end Moran had stood out on his own, earning rich kudos from his manager Michael Ryan, a candidate for the Waterford job just a couple of months ago.
Ryan cannot understand how the powerhouse 23-year-old is not permanently sited at half-back on any team he plays. Waterford had him at midfield and half-forward this season. Yesterday's tour de force, felt Ryan, illustrates that centre-back is his best position.
"No one will ever convince me that Kevin Moran's best position is not in defence. He was majestic. He dominated the game from start to finish. When the pressure was on, he got that ball 70 or 80 metres out.
"Everything hung on that one shot. That's the shot of a lifetime. You either step up to the plate or you don't," said Ryan. "Kevin, the man he is, got that ball and planted it between the posts."
Others stepped up, too. When Mullane missed his third scorable free, Bryan Phelan took over responsibility and by the end there were six points to his name, all from mid or long-range frees or '65s'.
He screwed a few wide too and one from a '65' caused controversy near the end of normal-time when Roche adjudged that Daniel Kearney had run across Phelan as he struck and ordered a free from 10 metres closer.
This time, the powerful Phelan did not miss and reduced the gap to one point (2-11 to 0-16) to set up Moran's grandstand finish.
That decision enraged Sarsfields, and their manager John Crowley raised it in a post-match interview, deeming it "harsh".
In Sarsfields protestation, however, may have been a strong helping of regret that they had twice let five-point leads slip. Cian McCarthy's goal on 16 minutes, courtesy of a Kieran Murphy flick into his path, handed the Cork champions the initiative and a 1-2 to 0-3 lead.
Murphy turned finisher towards the end of the half when he collected from Michael Cussen and slipped a shot past Stephen Brenner, before adding a point to establish the first five-point cushion, 2-5 to 0-6 at the break.
For De La Salle, there was plenty of possession but very little cutting edge. It wasn't a particularly rewarding half for Mullane, who watched in dismay as two relatively simple frees for a striker of the ball like him weren't converted, one whizzing wide from about 30 metres, the other cannoning off an upright back into play.
Towards the end of the half he went one-on-one, albeit from a tight angle, with Kennedy after a perfectly placed pass by Eddie Barrett but the Sarsfields goalkeeper -- not for the first time -- was equal to the task, batting Mullane's shot away for a '65' which Phelan did convert.
De La Salle cut the deficit back to two points early in the second half with Mullane on target with two frees and Barrett chipping in, but by the 41st minute, Sarsfields had a five-point lead again and appeared to be cruising.
For the final 20 minutes or so, it was all De La Salle, however. Mullane finally squeezed over a point from play on 51 minutes and substitute Eoin Madigan secured an important score. They had the bit between the teeth and the belief, too.
"To give them a five-point start, then to come back and then let them go five points up again and still dig it out, it's great credit to every one of the boys," said Ryan.
"It was one of these days, I don't know why, that I felt we would get our chance -- particularly when it went to extra-time."
When it did venture into added-time, De La Salle had the edge as Moran and Phelan grew stronger with every minute and the full-back line, spearheaded by Ian Flynn and the impressive Michael Doherty, dealt with almost everything thrown at them.
Midfielder Dean Twomey also made a big contribution with some telling runs and it was his point in the first period of extra-time that really gave De La Salle the impetus to go and win the game.
Sarsfields had a chance at the end from a long-range McCarthy free, but it drifted narrowly wide, just as a similar chance had drifted wide near the end of normal-time which would have made the game safe. But Sarsfields manager Crowley refused to lay any blame at McCarthy's door given his conversion rate (80pc according to Crowley) this season.
The last word was left to Ryan, who credited the honesty and heart of his players.
"Semi-finals are all about winning," he said. "Waterford and De La Salle teams have often played in great games and come out on the wrong side of it. The only thing we were interested in today was the final score."
Scorers -- De La Salle: B Phelan 0-6 (0-4f, 0-2 '65'), J Mullane 0-5 (0-3f), P Nevin 0-4, K Moran 0-2, S Daniels (0-1f), E Madigan, D Twomey, J Dillon, E Barrett 0-1 each. Sarsfields: C McCarthy 1-6 (0-5f, 0-1 '65'), K Murphy 1-1, G O'Loughlin, D Kearney 0-3 each, T Og Murphy 0-2.
De La Salle -- S Brenner; D Russell, I Flynn, M Doherty; B Phelan, K Moran, S Daniels; C Watt, D Twomey; P Nevin, D Greene, E Barrett; J Dillon, J Mullane, J Keane. Subs: E Madigan for Watt (42), L Hayes for Keane (56), J Keane for Greene (78)
Sarsfields -- A Kennedy; D Keneally, J Barry, C O'Sullivan; G O'Kelly-Lynch, R Ryan, C Leahy; D Kearney, D Roche; C McCarthy, W Kearney, G O'Loughlin; M Cussen, K Murphy, T Og Murphy. Subs: R Murphy for Cussen (55), M Cussen for Murphy (70), P Ryan for Kearney (74), E O'Sullivan for Kearney (76).
REF -- S Roche (Tipperary).