At last, after all the suffering, famous Bennettsbridge got to dream the dream of champions when they won the junior hurling championship final at the third attempt.
In a game between two ‘big guns’ from other times at Nowlan Park on Sunday, the ’Bridge out-classed Mooncoin when playing into the wind in the first half to lay the basis for a third victory at this level.
The winners will now play in the intermediate grade in 2015.
The Southerners were out-run, out thought and out hurled by a team that tasted defeat against Thomastown and Lisdowney during the darkness of the past two seasons.
Gains made during that period set up victory for the ’Bridge, who were leading by 1-11 to 0-5 at the break. They had played against the wind.
The quality of the offering dipped afterwards, but there was no doubting the winners superiority with the likes of Nickey Cleere, what a finisher he is, Aidan Cleere, Enda Morrissey, a magnificent James Moran, Brian Lannon and Liam Blanchfield all making superb contributions.
The winners defending was sweet, with the half-back trio of Jason Cleere, Enda Morrissey and Aidan Cleere particularly good from the off. On top of that, their movement in attack and the way they were able to punch holes in the Mooncoin defence, made them look likely winners from an early stage.
Mooncoin conceded the opening points to Nickey Cleere (free) after a mighty catch by Hugh O’Neill before he was fouled, and Cormac Wafer, with an assist by his brother, Darragh.
The losers bounced back to parity via scores from Cormac Fleming and Ray Wall. They actually got in front with a free from Ethan Ryan.
At the end of the quarter the ’Bridge were back level (0-4 each). Two minutes later a push in the back on Nicky Cleere saw him land a superb free from 70 metres to put his side back in front (0-5 to 0-4). They led all the way home from there.
The points were piled up nicely by the free running winners - Aidan Cleere, Brian Lannon after a wonderful catch and clearance by Moran, Liam Blanchfield, Nicky Cleere and Lannon again so that the divide was 0-11 to 0-4 after 29 minutes.
The pressure was already showing on Mooncoin, whose efforts were disjointed. Jamie McGrath pulled back a minor after they had lost seven scores in-a-row. The relief was temporary.
In the third minute of lost time at the end of the half a wonderful ball into the right corner at the City end by Brian Lennon was gathered by Liam Blanchfield. The youngster powered his way through two tackles before rifling a great angled shot into the net to leave his side a commanding 1-11 to 0-5 clear at the rest.
A review of that half threw up some trend setting moments for the ’Bridge. Free taker Nicky Cleere was faultless, landing five frees from distances that ranged between 60 and 75 metres. Goalie Enda Cleere was called into action once, when he showed super reflexes to turn away a piledriver from P.J. Rowe.
The contribution of both hurt Mooncoin badly, while helping their team to take, and keep, a tight grip on the match.
There was an early exchange of points in the new half between Sean Morrissey and Stephen Crowley, but the ’Bridge hit back for a hat trick through the hard going Hugh O’Neill, Kevin Blanchfield and Nickey Cleere (65) to open out a yawning gap of 1-15 to 0-6 in the 49th minute.
Mooncoin pulled back a goal through Eoin Hennebry, following good work by Ray Wall, with 10 minutes remaining, but the title was won and lost at that stage.
“We will have to be serious about the business of the Leinster championship now,” insisted thrilled manager, Christy Walsh. “It is great to get there after all the heartache.”
SCORERS: Bennettsbridge -Nicky Cleere (0-7, six frees, one 65); Liam Blanchfield (1-1); Sean Morrissey, Brian Lannon (0-2 each); Aidan Cleere, Kevin Blanchfield, Hugh O’Neill, Cormac Wafer, William Murphy (0-1 each). Mooncoin - Eoin Hennebry (1-0); Ethan Ryan (0-2, frees); Cormac Fleming, Ray Wall, Jamie McGrath, Stephen Crowley (0-1 each); Diarmuid Mackey (0-1, free).
Bennettsbridge - Enda Cleere, Sean Wemyss, Robert Lennon (capt), James Moran, Jason Cleere, Enda Morrissey, Aidan Cleere, Darragh Wafer, Kevin Blanchfield, Hugh O’Neill, Brian Lannon, Nicky Cleere, Liam Blanchfield, Cormac Wafer, Sean Morrissey. Subs - William Murphy, Micheal Shiel.
Mooncoin - Patrick Kinsella, Conor Brophy, Alan Walsh, Niall Blanchfield, Niall Mackey (capt), Cormac Daly, Eoin Hennebry, Ethan Ryan, David Kearns, Cormac Fleming, Jamie McGrath, Seamus Kearns, Sean Wall, Danny Purcell, Ray Wall. Subs - P.J. Rowe, Diarmuid Mackey, Stephen Crowley, Keith Kirwan, Patrick Walsh.
Ref - Michael O’Sullivan (Ballyhale Shamrocks).
JHC Roll of Honour
Thomastown (5) - 1927, 1945, 1962, 2005, 2012
John Lockes (4) - 1911, 1952, 1987, 2010
Mullinavat (4) - 1915, 1916, 1939, 1984
Mooncoin (4) - 1920, 1937, 1942, 1961
Glenmore (4) - 1923, 1953, 1980, 1991
James Stephens (4) - 1924, 1929, 1955, 2000
Carrickshock (4) - 1928, 1954, 1979, 1999
Tullogher-Rosbercon (4) - 1989, 1992, 1997, 2008
Dicksboro (3) - 1910, 1914, 1919
Danesfort (3) - 1925, 1930, 2006
Galmoy (3) - 1949, 1966, 2004
Piltown (3) - 1981, 1996, 2003
Barrow Rangers (3) - 1982, 1988, 1990
Blacks & Whites (3) - 1998, 2002, 2009
Bennettsbridge (3) - 1948, 1951, 2014
Knocktopher (2) - 1931, 1965
North Selection (2) - 1932, 1934
St Lachtain’s (2) - 1959, 1993
Lisdowney (2) - 1960, 2013
Clara (2) - 1969, 1977
Windgap (2) - 1970, 1986
O’Loughlin Gaels (2) - 1975, 1995
Conahy Shamrocks (2) - 1976, 2007
St Patrick’s, Ballyragget (2) - 1978, 2011
One each - Owen Roes (Urlingford), 1905; Erin’s Own (City), 1906; Suir Side Rovers, 1908; Mong, 1913; Clonmore, 1922; Knockmoylan, 1926; South Selection, 1933; Bonnettstown, 1935; Eire Og, 1936; Ballyline, 1938; Threecastles, 1940; Hugginstown, 1941; Stoneyford, 1943; The Rower, 1944; Graigue, 1946; Johnstown-Urlingford, 1947; Slieverue, 1950; St Senan’s (Kilmacow), 1956; Tullogher, 1957; Erin’s Own (Castlecomer), 1958; Rower-Inistioge, 1963; Young Irelands (Gowran), 1964; Coon, 1967; Fenians (Johnstown), 1968; Newpark Sarsfields, 1971; Graignamanagh, 1972; Ballyhale Shamrocks, 1973; Muckalee/Ballyfoyle Rangers, 1974; Tullaroan, 1983; Dunnamaggin, 1994; Emeralds 2001.