A strong first-half performance helped Bennettsbridge retain their senior hurling status when they beat St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) by 1-23 to 1-16 in today’s relegation final.
St Patrick’s pushed hard in the second half but will drop down to the intermediate grade for 2020.
Bennettsbridge, beaten county finalists last year, were in fine form in the first half.
Led by Nickey Cleere (0-12) they roared into a big lead, an advantage they stretched when Jason Cleere rifled an unstoppable penalty to the net after county forward Liam Blanchfield was fouled after 20 minutes.
That helped them go in with an 11-point cushion at half-time (1-14 to 0-6), Kevin Kelly (0-3 frees) and Geoff Brennan (0-2) getting the bulk of the Ballyragget scores.
Kevin Kelly made his presence felt in the second half as Ballyragget fought back. He fired two quick points, then caught Bennettsbridge cold when he drilled a free to the net on 40 minutes, reducing arrears to eight points (1-17 to 1-9).
St Patrick’s were on a roll but stalled when Brian ‘Brook’ Phelan was dismissed for a straight red card 15 minutes from time.
The advantage of the extra man helped Bennettsbridge ride out the storm — they never let their rivals get too close.
Scorers for Bennettsbridge: Nickey Cleere (0-16, 0-13 frees, 0-1 65); Jason Cleere (1-0, pen); Ciaran Brennan (0-3); Kevin Blanchfield, Liam Blanchfield, Hugh O’Neill, Dylan Walsh (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Patrick’s: Kevin Kelly (1-8, 1-7 frees); Geoff Brennan, Michael Brennan (0-2 each); Bill Staunton, Barry Staunton, Seoirse Kenny, Jack Morrissey (0-1 each).