AIB All-Ireland Club IHC final - Bennettsbridge (Kilkenny) 1-17 Abbeyknockmoy (Galway) 1-14: In the end, it all came down to a gust of wind. With 56 minutes on the clock at Croke Park, Sean Morrissey struck a point attempt from out on the right wing that dipped violently and flew to the Abbeyknockmoy net.
The scores had been tied so Bennettsbridge moved three clear and, as it turned out, neither team scored again in the remaining six minutes or so.
It was an unfortunate way for an exciting and high quality game to be decided even if it did ensure a piece of club hurling history for Bennettsbridge who have now won consecutive junior and intermediate titles.
The better outcome — certainly from Abbeyknockmoy ‘keeper Declan Molloy’s perspective — would have been for Morrissey’s attempt to carry a little higher and simply register a point.
Either way, Molloy and his colleagues will take some time to get over this defeat as they were ultimately outscored by 1-4 to 0-0 in the closing 12 minutes or so.
Morrissey was an All-Ireland minor medallist with Kilkenny in 2014 and his touch of class was apparent throughout, particularly late on as he contributed 1-2 of that 1-4 tally.
“He’s excellent,” enthused Christy Walsh, the Kerry native who has led Bennettsbridge to the two All-Ireland titles. “This is my fourth year here now. We got to four county finals, lost two of them but won the third one and we’re winning since. That’s two solid years now, winning everything we’ve played in.” The task for Bennettsbridge now is to emulate Carlow side Mount Leinster Rangers who won this title in 2012 and pushed on to reach the All-Ireland senior decider within two years.
Bennettsbridge, of course, are no strangers to the senior ranks and between 1952 and 1975 competed in 16 county finals, winning 11 of them.
The winners will reflect on a curious game that saw their scoring come in three separate bursts. The first pushed them 0-10 to 0-6 clear after 23 minutes though four points in a row including three from the excellent Flaherty hauled Abbeyknockmoy level at half-time. It was hectic, energetic stuff and three more ‘Bridge points nudged them back into pole position after the restart, 0-13 to 0-11.
But they would take another rest for 10 minutes or so as Abbeyknockmoy seized the initiative to reel off 1-3 without reply, their 42nd minute poked goal coming from Damien Rooney after great work by sub Craig Kennedy.
With 48 minutes on the clock, Abbeyknockmoy led 1-14 to 0-13 and had a star in Flaherty whose eighth point had left them in that healthy position. That was the moment the music stopped for them, however, as Bennettsbridge regrouped and Morrissey, or to be more specific, fate, intervened. “I was going for the point in fairness, the wind just caught it and it went in,” said Morrissey of his goal. “It was the stroke of luck we needed.”
Scorers for Bennettsbridge:
S Morrissey (1-6), N Cleere (0-7, 7 frees), W Murphy (0-2), H O’Neill and B Lannon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Abbeyknockmoy:
P Flaherty (0-8, five frees), D Rooney (1-0), F Garvey, Caelom Mulry, E Blade, B Flaherty, B Costello and C Kennedy (0-1 each).
E Cleere; J Moran, R Lennon, C Wafer; J Cleere, E Morrissey, A Cleere; D Wafer, K Blanchfield; N Cleere, S Morrissey, B Lannon; W Murphy, L Blanchfield, H O’Neill.
S Wemyss for K Blanchfield (53), M Shiel for Murphy (53), K Brennan for Lannon (62).
D Molloy; R Cooley, J Culkin, T Farragher; T Mullins, B Flaherty, B Costello; D Rooney, C Mulry; D Mullins, C Maher, E Blade; P Flaherty, B O’Donnell, F Garvey.
C Kennedy for O’Donnell (41), P O’Donnell for Blade (53).
John Keenan (Wicklow).
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