In the mood Bennettsbridge overpowered resilient Barrow Rangers (Paulstown) in a junior hurling championship semi-final that was slow to take off.
Cathal English gave a man of the match performance for the losers, but his strong leadership proved to no avail as the ’Bridge won through for a county final clash with Lisdowney.
Bennettsbridge looked sharp from the off. Liam Blanchfield was the one who got scoring proceedings underway when he used his pace and power to good effect before scoring.
Sean Morrissey followed with his first score. Veteran forward Dermot Maher converted a free for ’Rangers before Martin Bambrick levelled with a well taken score.
Hugh O’Neill put the ’Bridge one up again before a second Maher free levelled. Cathal English opened his account with a point. Shane McEvoy pointed for ’Rangers but the game was generally lifeless.
The action had yet to spark to life although the heavy tackles weren’t flying in thick and fast. ’Rangers had been the more dominant. English added to their tally after 20 minutes. Two converted frees from Nicky Cleere and a second score from Hugh O’Neill brought the ’Bridge level.
A foul drawn by Martin Bambrick allowed Dermot Maher to convert another placed ball on the half hour. In injury-time ’Rangers struck with their best move. A winding run by Martin Bambrick allowed Cathal English to drift into space. Bambrick’s lay off found English’s hand, and the latter finished sweetly into the net.
’Rangers went into the break ahead by 1-7 to 0-6. The goal changed the look of things, it appeared.
Substitute Michael Whitely pointed for the winners within two minutes of the restart. Suddenly the action warmed up. Strangely, the ’Rangers challenge faded.
Nicky Cleere started the ’Bridges on a flood of scores with a free before points from Brian Lannon and Sean Morrissey reduced the deficit to two. After 38 minutes the winners struck decisively. Liam Blanchfield was brought down in the large square. Penalty! Nicky Cleere goaled.
Bennettsbridge were ahead. They continued on their hot scoring streak with a point from Lannon and a double from Cleere. With 12 minutes left Cathal English pulled the deficit back to two.
Cleere pointed a placed ball to put the ’Bridge three ahead again. Aidan Cleere then pointed a huge effort. It was point for point during the closing 10 minutes before an injury time 20 metre free was awarded to ’Rangers. Richie Doyle buried the ball in the net. It was too late.
Bennettsbridge - Enda Cleere, Paul O’Neill, Sean Wemyss, Cormac Wafer, Jason Cleere, Enda Morrissey, Aidan Cleere (0-1), Darragh Wafer, Kevin Blanchfield (0-1), Liam Blanchfield (0-2), Hugh O’Neill (0-2), Nicky Cleere (1-6, goal penalty, 0-6 free0, Brian Lannon (0-2), James Moran, Sean Morrissey (0-4). Subs - William Murphy.
Barrow Rangers - Graham English, Tom Brennan, Ciaran Doyle, Ciaran Breen, Patrick Purcell, Richie Doyle (1-0, free), Edward Prendergast, Timmy Brennan, Cathal Kenny (0-2, one free), Martin Bambrick (0-1), Dermot Maher (0-4, frees), Shane McEvoy (0-1), Jason Holden, Cathal English (1-3), Billy Hanlon. Michael Whitely (0-1), Thomas Whitely, Ger Walsh.