Eoin Cody see’s red as Sean Morrissey shines
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
St. Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League-Championship 2023
Bennettsbridge 2-24 Shamrocks Ballyhale 2-17
A tactical masterclass coupled with a wonderful display saw Bennettsbridge claim a fantastic win over Shamrocks Ballyhale last Sunday. In front of a huge crowd at a sun-drenched Thomastown, Tim Dooley’s Bridge side were deserved 7-point winners following a battling encounter with Pat Hoban’s charges in a game that saw Kilkenny captain Eoin Cody leave the field early having picked up two yellow cards from referee David Hughes.
Despite an early major from TJ Reid, Bennettsbridge led from the 11th minute and were never headed as they put in a performance that will serve as a warning sign to any side that may face them at the business end of the club season.
The Bridge went two points ahead in the opening stages thanks to lovely scores from Jason Cleere and Liam Blanchfield, both of whom caused problems for the Shamrocks throughout the game. TJ Reid who was looking fit and hungry after the two week break then slotted over a ‘65 after his original shot was blocked. Better was to come just a minute later when the legendary forward showed fantastic footwork to dummy before rifling an unstoppable shot past Enda Cleere in the Bennettsbridge goal.
The Cleere clan then hit 3 on the bounce to edge their side ahead, a brace of free’s from the deadly Nicky before Jason notched his second of the game from play with seven minutes played. Not to be outdone, two of the Reid brothers combined which ended with TJ stroking over a fine point from play. Kevin Blanchfield then split the posts with a quality effort from about ‘45 out before TJ added a free to his tally after a foul on Darragh Corcoran. Jason Cleere, with No. 6 on his back was reveling in an unfamiliar forward role and expertly sent over his third of the day before Nicky nailed another placed ball effort.
Everything good from the Shamrocks was coming from TJ and the iconic star won and converted a free to reduce his sides arrears to just the one point with 13 minutes on the clock. The returning Liam Blanchfield added a second of his own from play before Pat Hoban’s side lost the services of Paddy Mullen who hobbled off with what appeared to be a muscle issue and was replaced by Liam Barron. Another of Clan Mullen, Adrian, then fired over a cracking point from out the field, but the county man’s influence on the game was being limited by some determined opposition defending.
Nicky Cleere then slotted another placed ball for the Bridge and the Shamrocks replied with a nice point from the hurl of Eoin Cody who was struggling to get into the game due to being brilliantly shackled by Enda Morrissey. More on that later. Tim Dooley’s side then hit another three points on the spin, a lovely effort from the influential Sean Morrissey sandwiched between two from the ultra-reliable Nicky Cleere. With 23 minutes gone in Thomastown, the Bridge now led by 4 points. Shamrocks needed to respond before the short whistle, and they hit 3 out of the last 4 scores of the opening period, Eoin’s Kenneally and Cody and another placed ball from TJ countering a second of the game from Sean Morrissey to leave the half time score, Bennettsbridge 0-14, Shamrocks Ballyhale 1-9.
Shamrocks opened the scoring after the interval thanks to a long range free from who else, but TJ. It was now a 1-point game, but the current All-Ireland club champions momentum has halted soon after, with County captain Eoin Cody receiving a 2nd yellow of the game and his marching orders having come-off second best in his tussle with the Bridge’s Enda Morrissey.
Another spell of 3 scores from Bennettsbridge, all courtesy of Nicky Cleere saw Tim Dooley’s side go four clear. TJ rifled over another placed ball, and it appeared it was TJ vs The bridge at this stage. It seemed like good things come in 3’s and again the Bridge hit another trio of scores, all from play via Nicky Cleere, Sean Morrissey and the impressive midfielder Kevin Blanchfield. Shamrocks now trailed by six.
Adrian Mullen and TJ Reid reduced the deficit to four again, but any prospect of another of those classic Shamrocks comebacks was soon quashed as the Bridge raised a green flag shortly after. Sean Morrissey who was operating further out the field in the 2nd half played a lovely pass to the on-running Kevin Blanchfield who took a couple of steps before unleashing a fierce shot past Dean Mason in the Shamrocks goal. Bennettsbridge were 7 ahead and looking irrepressible in Thomastown.
Young defender Bill Hughes who was having a great battle trying to keep tabs on TJ was then shown a yellow by referee Hughes for a trip on his man. TJ pointed this effort and followed up moments later with another placed ball to reduce the Bridge lead to 5 points. Hoban’s men, with TJ leading the fight sensed a small chance that there was still something in the baking hot sun for them, but this belief was about to be smothered.
Fresh legs in the form of Jack Campion, who had been due to start the game, delivered a hammer blow to the Shamrocks challenge when with seemed to be his first touch, the young forward dispatched a shot beyond Dean Mason and into the back of the Ballyhale net. Eight points to the good, surely the Bridge were home and hosed? County star David Blanchfield became the next player to benefit from the build-up play of Sean Morrissey as he split the posts with another fine effort. Two more superb efforts followed from Kevin Blanchfield and the standout player on display, Sean Morrissey. The gap was now ELEVEN points.
Again, Shamrocks tried to hit back, and they would get another major, again from TJ. Reid was motoring forward towards the Bridge goal when he was halted illegally, penalty the only outcome. TJ stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to reduce the Bridge lead to 8 points. Darragh Corcoran and TJ added further points for the losing side with a long range free from Enda Cleere tagged on by the winners and impressive Bridge side. Final score from Costa Del Thomastown, Bennettsbridge 2-24, Shamrocks Ballyhale 2-17.
St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League Championship 2023
Round 5 Preview
The final round of fixtures has arrived. Glenmore and Dicksboro still lead the way in groups A & B respectively. in Group A, to my and many others surprise, Glenmore’s unbeaten run was ended by Graigue Ballycallan who emerged 6-point winners in Callan. This result, coupled with Bennettsbridge’s dismantling of 14-man Shamrocks means that top spot in the group is still well and truly up for grabs as we enter the final day’s games. To make matters more interesting, Inistioge will host the meeting of Glenmore and Bennettsbridge tomorrow. Potentially, a winner takes all clash and a berth in the League final at stake.
Pat Hoban will be acutely aware that his side has a difficult task in round 5 when they take on Brian Cody’s Village outfit. No one would have been expecting to talk about relegation matters and Shamrocks Ballyhale in the same breath. John Locke Park awaits this clash and TJ Reid will hope that his team delivers a more coherent performance, and more importantly, the win.
Graigue Ballycallan, no doubt bouncing from their win over Glenmore will not fear the challenge of Erins Own, who look primed for a relegation battle in the weeks ahead.
In Group B, Dicksboro show no signs of slacking off and are the only unbeaten side across both groups as we approach the final round of games. Michael Walsh’s charges were tested and pushed by a strong Mullinavat performance last day out, but a brace of majors from Andy Gaffney saw them home. Ballyragget is the expected venue for the meeting of the men from Palmerstown and Tullaroan.
Brian Hogan’s O’Loughlin’s outfit will expect to finish their group games with four wins when they take on winless Danesfort at Jenkinstown. It’s been a steady campaign for the city side ahead of the championship. It’s been a tough time for Willie Coogan’s side and it’s difficult to make a case for them grabbing maximum points tomorrow.
Possibly the game which has the most riding on it will take place in Dr Tierney Park, where Clara will battle with Mullinavat. Both sides have identical records ahead of the round 5 clash and the winners will likely avoid involvement with relegation matters.
All games throw-in at 1:30pm tomorrow and Gaels will be no doubt making calls and sending messages, trying to keep abreast of the action, as there could well be some twists and turns on what could be a ‘super Saturday’.