Intermediate Hurling: Bennettsbridge leave it late
AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Final: Bennettsbridge (Kilkenny) 1-17 Abbeyknockmoy (Galway) 1-14
By Paul Keane
Seán Morrissey struck 1-6 at Croke Park, including a fortuitous late goal, to seal the AIB All-Ireland club intermediate hurling title for Bennettsbridge.
The Kilkenny champions trailed by four points approaching the 50th minute but held Abbeyknockmoy scoreless for the remainder of the contest as they dug deep for a famous win.
Morrissey's 56th minute goal will go down as the game breaker and Galway champions Abbeyknockmoy will have nightmares about the concession as Morrissey's point attempt from the right wing floated in over the 'keeper to the net.
The strike put Bennettsbridge three clear and neither side scored again before the final whistle.
Free-taker Paul Flaherty, who along with brother Brian inspired Abbeyknockmoy to their third Galway intermediate title last October, had been the outstanding figure initially for the westerners and it seemed as if they might hold on.
Four of Flaherty's six first-half points came from frees though his two from play were peaches, the first a long range monster and his second a fine volleyed effort after a searing solo run.
It was a tense but free-flowing contest and both sides opened up the opposing defence with clever interplay at different times. Bennettsbridge led by 0-10 to 0-6 after 23 minutes and were just about the better side though the Connacht men finished the half the stronger.
Flaherty converted three points in a row before sibling Brian launched a long-range effort that split the posts to send the sides in even at the break, 0-10 to 0-10.
Morrissey was one of a number of All-Ireland minor medalists in the 'Bridge team and contributed four first-half points, two in the opening 10 minutes as the Leinster champions opened the brighter.
Damien Rooney's 42nd minute goal for Abbeyknockmoy appeared to turn the game and they would move four clear as the game neared a conclusion.
But Bennettsbridge had retained a string kick for the final lap and after levelling the game up at 1-14 to 0-17 following points from Morrissey and free-taker Nicky Cleere, Morrissey then struck for that hugely fortunately match winning goal.
Scorers for Bennettsbridge: Sean Morrissey 1-6, Nicky Cleere 0-7 (0-7f), William Murphy 0-2, Hugh O'Neill 0-1, Brian Lannon 0-1.
Scorers for Abbeyknockmoy: Paul Flaherty 0-8 (0-5f), Damien Rooney 1-0, Fionnan Garvey 0-1, Caelom Mulry 0-1, Eoin Blade 0-1, Brian Flaherty 0-1, Brian Costello 0-1, Craig Kennedy 0-1.
Bennettsbridge: Enda Cleere; James Moran, Robert Lennon, Cormac Wafer; Jason Cleere, Enda Morrissey, Aidan Cleere; Darragh Wafer, Kevin Blanchfield; Nicky Cleere, Sean Morrissey, Brian Lannon; William Murphy, Liam Blanchfield, Hugh O'Neill. Subs: Sean Wemyss for K Blanchfield (53), Michael Shiel for Murphy (53), Kevin Brennan for Lannon (62).
Abbeyknockmoy: Declan Molloy; Ronan Cooley, John Culkin, Tommy Farragher; Trevor Mullins, Brian Flaherty, Brian Costello; Damien Rooney, Caelom Mulry; Danny Mullins, Coleman Maher, Eoin Blade; Paul Flaherty, Brian O'Donnell, Fionnan Garvey. Subs: Greg Kennedy for O'Donnell (41), Padraig O'Donnell for Blade (53).
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)