The quality of the hurling in this high-scoring junior hurling championship game was extraordinary. There were some tremendous passages of concerted, skilful play. There were a number of great episodes of terrific inter-play.
There were plenty of goalmouth thrills, even one nugget where the ball dropped into the square and hopped over the crossbar off the hard surface. With an aggregate score of 3-40, you would expect some thrilling moments, and we were not disappointed.
You might think that with such high scores, that defenders were being cleaned out, but such was not the case. Every score by either side were expertly created, and converted with great precision. Both free-takers were outstanding. Nicky Cleere had a terrific outing, while the likes of Martin Power, and Peter McCarthy were no less effective. Robbie Culleton gave Piltown the start needed, when he nipped in to slash the ball to the Bennettsbridge net after two minutes. As a result Robert Lennon suffered a knee injury which necessitated attention and eventual substitution. Sean Wemyss replaced him, but it was feared that Lennon’s loss would be a telling factor in the eventual outcome.
It didn’t, as the ’Bridge defenders, in particular Aidan Cleere, Cormac and Dara Wafer, and Enda Morrissey did Trojan work in defending their goal.
County minor Liam Blanchfield –remember the name- showing blinding pace fired over a point in the 8th minute. He followed that with a 50-yard dash through the heart of the Piltown defence to score a marquee goal, which levelled matters on the scoreboard.
By the halfway stage, Bennettsbridge had hit the front at 1-6 to 1-3, thanks in the main to points by Hugh O’Neill (2) and Nicky Cleere (two frees).
The excitement was still very palpable, and the hurling never faltered from very good. The first half moved at pace right to the break with scores being exchanged with regularity, and the quality of the free-taking exemplary.
At 25 minutes the sides were locked at 1-7 apiece. At 28 minutes, the winners had slid a three-point differential into the mix, but at the break the score read, Bennettsbridge 1-15, Piltown 1-10.
At the halfway point in the second half, Bennettsbridge had increased their lead to seven points. Piltown were buckling. But they were still in the ball game. The deficit was pulled back to five points at the 49-minute mark, but just when it seemed that Piltown would mount a charging move forward, they were decimated when Liam Blanchfield, not for the first time, rocketed through the right flank of defence to set up Nicky Cleere with a goal chance.
Cleere didn’t miss, and the curtain came down on the Piltown presentation for Junior honours for another year. They stayed pulling on the rope, but it was a tepid attempt at the resurrection of a failing cause. Their last effort for 2013 was a fine point by young Tomas Talbot just before the call of time.
Scorers: Bennettsbridge - Nicky Cleere (1-13, ten frees); Liam Blanchfield (1-3); Hugh O’Neill (0-3); Brian Lannon, Sean Morrissey (0-1 each). Piltown - Martin Power (0-9, six frees); Robbie Culleton (1-3); Thomas Talbot, Andrew McCarthy, Andrew Norris, Nicky Kenny, Nollaig Brophy, Kevin Walsh (0-1 each); Peter McCarthy (0-1, free).
Bennettsbridge - Enda Cleere, Paul O’Neill, Robert Lennon, Cormac Wafer, Jason Cleere, Enda Morrissey, Aidan Cleere, Dara Wafer, Kevin Blanchfield, Liam Blanchfield, James Moran, Nicky Cleere, Brian Lannon, Hugh O’Neill, Sean Morrissey. Sub - Sean Wemyss.
Piltown - David Burchill, Brendan Norris, Shane Kinsella, Conor O’Shea, Kevin Walsh, Peter McCarthy, Neil Kelly, Nicholas Kenny, Philip Kenny, Andrew Norris, Nollaig Brophy, Robbie Culleton, James Norris, Andrew McCarthy, Martin Power. Subs - Thomas Talbot, Andrew Norris, David Kinsella.