Bennettsbridge wing forward Liam Blanchfield gains possession during the SHL clash against the Rower-Inistioge. Picture: Willie Dempsey
Bennettsbridge completed their group campaign of the senior league with a hat-trick of victories as they defeated a spirited Rower-Inistioge in front of a packed attendance.
Saturday’s win at a sun-drenched Gowran meant that they topped their group to set up a league final showdown with near neighbours Clara, while also qualifying for the senior championship quarter-final.
Also, they were the only team in the senior grade to have completed maximum points from their three matches. What will have been most pleasing to the management team was not conceding a goal particularly having conceded nine goals in their previous two matches - six against Shamrocks and three against Lisdowney.
In an entertaining and enjoyable contest, Rower-Inistioge made the early running, as they led 0-8 to 0-5 by the first water break.
The lively Jack Walsh was on target three times (including two frees) during that opening period, while a brace of points from Pat Lyng - two long range efforts - and Richie Leahy along with a long distance free from 100 metres by Kieran Joyce also contributed to their scoring tally.
Walsh pointed another free to extend the advantage - 0-9 to 0-5 before Bennettsbridge started to gain supremacy outscoring their opponents 0-7 to 0-2 over the closing 10 minutes of the half to lead 0-12 to 0-11 at the interval.
Sean Morrissey and Nicky Cleere (frees) added two points each, while Hugh O’Neill along with Jason and Aidan Cleere also found the range as they finished the half very strongly.
The ’Bridge men continued that strong momentum going into the third quarter as they stretched the lead to five points (0-20 to 0-15) at the beginning of the final quarter with the exceptional David Blanchfield leading the way from centre-back.
Blanchfield fired over a superb long range point to inspire them to greater effort, while their excellent corner-back Conor Murphy also struck over a magnificent long distance point.
Further points also came from Aidan Cleere, Kevin and Liam Blanchfield, along with three from Nicky Cleere - including an effort from play - as they put themselves in a very strong position.
The one notable downside was the departure of Sean Morrissey, who limped off.
He had scored 0-4 in a very productive first half before injury struck.
Rower-Inistioge kept plugging away and points from Pat Lyng, Richie Leahy, Eoin O’Brien and Shane Ryan added to their tally.
However, Bennettsbridge maintained control and further points from a Nicky Cleere free, Shane Byrne and David Blanchfield completed their scoring tally to extend their advantage - 0-23 to 0-16 - while their opponents finished the match with consecutive points from Tom Doyle (2) and Eoin O’Brien.
It was a third straight defeat for Rower-Inistioge, who now play O’Loughlin Gaels in the first round of the championship next weekend, but their gallant efforts can’t be faulted, particularly from Kieran Joyce, Ruairi Galavan, Shane Ryan, Richie Leahy, Eoin O’Brien and the excellent Pat Lyng.
Before the match a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Maura Lee, mother of Ruairi Galavan, who passed away recently. A s a mark of respect the original fixture, which was scheduled for September 18, was postponed until last weekend.
Bennettsbridge - Nicky Cleere (0-8, 0-7 frees); Sean Morrissey (0-4), Jason Cleere, Aidan Cleere, David Blanchfield (0-2 each); Hugh O’Neill, Conor Murphy, Kevin Blanchfield, Liam Blanchfield, Shane Byrne (0-1 each).
Rower-Inistioge - Jack Walsh (0-6, 0-5 frees); Pat Lyng, Richie Leahy (0-3 each); Eoin O’Brien, Tom Doyle (0-2 each); Kieran Joyce, Kevin Murphy, Shane Ryan (0-1 each).
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.