BY NIALL SHERRY
The Bridge de-throned in league decider as Dunne shines
St Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League Final
UPMC Nowlan Park
Tullaroan 1-24 Bennettsbridge 0-13
The Sash produced a magnificent display of attacking hurling as they dismantled a disappointing Bennettsbridge at UPMC Nowlan Park in the league final last Saturday.
A 14-point victory was just reward for Ken Coogan’s charges as they never allowed The Bridge to settle throughout the encounter.
Pleasing for Coogan, will have been the fact that all six starting forwards scored, with Gearoid Dunne the pick of the bunch, notching 1-3 on the day, his first half goal proving a crucial score in Bennettsbridge’s demise.
It was The Bridge’s Nicky Cleere that opened the scoring at headquarters from the placed ball, before John Walton levelled matters. Midfielder Kevin Blanchfield nudged The Bridge ahead, before corner forward Bill Gaffney replied for The Sash.
It was then that Tullaroan got into their groove, registering 1-5 to no score across the following 10 minutes. Points from Shane Walsh and county star Mossy Keoghan came before the only green flag of the day was raised. Mossy capitalised on a rare mistake by county colleague David Blanchfield and unleashed an effort that was partially saved, but the alert Dunne was on hand to finish to the net.
Gearoid Dunne then added his first point of the day before John Walton notched his second to leave Tullaroan 7-points to the good. Warning signs were there foe Willie Maher’s men, perhaps his players had been distracted by the appointment of their boss to the Laois job.
Bennettsbridge did rally a little, reducing the deficit to 4 points, thanks to points from Nicky Cleere, Kevin Blanchfield and Hugh O’Neill, but The Sash always seemed to have the measure of their opponents, and scores from Shane & Padraig Walsh along with Mossy left Tullaroan 1-10 to 0-6 up at the short whistle.
When play resumed in the second half, Bennettsbridge had their goalkeeper Enda Cleere to thank for keeping them in the game when he brilliantly denied Martin Keoghan a certain goal. A third placed ball of the day from Nicky Cleere briefly reduced the arrears to six points, but again Tullaroan went through the gears and pulled further ahead, thanks to points from Shane Walsh (2), Bill Gaffney and the very impressive Gearoid Dunne.
With un unassailable 10-point lead, the league final was over as a contest. Previously unbeaten Bennettsbridge were a pale imitation of their group game performances. Perhaps the message from both camps at the mid-point of the second period was conserve effort and energy for the weeks ahead, as there was certainly a drop-off in intensity as both sides seemed to accept the game was done.
Further scores followed from both sides, but with every score from The Bridge, came a couple from Tullaroan.
When Graigue-Ballycallan whistler Stephen Delaney brought the inevitable to a finish, Ken Coogan’s panel were senior league champions for the first time in some 20 years with some 14 points to spare over last season’s league winners. Both sides now in knock-out territory, both coming into championship action expecting progression.
Tullaroan – Shane Walsh (0-7, 0-4 frees), Gearoid Dunne (1-3), John Walton (0-4), Mossy Keoghan, Bill Gaffney (0-3 each), Jim Moore (0-2), Padraig Walsh, Dylan Simpson (0-1 each)
Bennettsbridge- Nicky Cleere (0-4, 0-4 frees), Kevin Blanchfield (0-3), Hugh O’Neill (0-2), Willie Murphy (0-1, 0-1 free), David Blanchfield, Ciaran Brennan, Sean Morrissey (0-1 each)
Tullaroan – Paul Buggy; Ger Luby, Tommy Walsh, Josh Moore; Martin Walsh, Padraig Walsh, Tomas Dunne; Jack Keoghan, Joe Coughlan; John Walton, Mossy Keoghan, Gearoid Dunne; Dylan Simpson, Shane Walsh, Bill Gaffney.
Subs- Jim Moore for Dunne 47 mins, Sean Leahy for Simpson 50 mins, Tommy Walton for M.Walsh 52 mins, Diarmuid Doheny for Moore 53 mins, Bill Walton for J.Walton 55 mins.
Bennettsbridge – Enda Cleere; Daniel Murphy, Enda Morrissey, Danny Coyne; Conor Murphy, David Blanchfield, Shane Byrne; Kevin Brennan, Kevin Blanchfield; Jamie Harkin, Liam Blanchfield, Ciaran Brennan; Nicky Cleere, Sean Morrissey, Hugh O’Neill.
Subs- Willie Murphy for Harkin 35 mins, Brian Lannon for C.Brennan 45 mins, Harry Murphy for K.Brennan 49 mins, Rob Lennon for N.Cleere 50 mins.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
Coming into last week’s league final, Bennettsbridge were unbeaten over 5 previous rounds of games. Tullaroan had surprised many with a stunning win over Shamrocks Ballyhale to progress to the decider.
I’d imagine Wille Maher didn’t expect such a disappointing showing from his charges, and he’ll need to lift them ahead of the championship action. A winner takes all match against James Stephens next up for The Bridge, they certainly can’t afford to be as off the pace next time out.
Ken Coogan’s league winners will face-off against Erins Own, and will be confident if his attacking unit functions in a similar fashion as this did against The Bridge.
No room for error now. Game on.