Robbie Dowling reports live from Clara.
It seemed unlikely when Dicksboro raced into a four-point lead midway through the first half, but Bennettsbridge have cruised to an opening round victory in the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling League on Saturday afternoon in a wet and dreary Clara.
Nicky Cleere led the charge for Willie Maher’s side with a total of 13 points as his free-taking ability along with well-taken goals by Liam Blanchfield and Sean Morrissey were the perfect combination for last year’s league champions.
It was Dicksboro who looked sharp from the off however, as captain Bill Sheehan, Timmy Clifford and Andy Gaffney all got on the scoresheet to help them take a deserved lead.
See also: O’Loughlin Gaels defeat Graigue Ballycallan in opening round of the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling League
Ill-discipline by their backs was the only thing keeping their opponents in the tie as centre forward Cleere punished each and every needless foul within scoring distance in what quickly became a masterful display from placed balls by the Bennettsbridge sharpshooter.
Those frees meant there was a solitary points between the teams at the interval despite the town club dominating proceedings for large spells, Dicksboro 0-11 to 0-10 Bennettsbridge.
That was as good as it would get for Michael Walsh’s men as Bennettsbridge finally began to flex their muscles and gave a far more impressive showing in the second half.
Ciarán Brennan tacked on two points from play along with a long-distance score from half-back Jamie Harkin while Cleere’s scores moved them into a four-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.
The crushing blows came in quick succession as Liam Blanchfield gathered a long ball and struck low and hard past the onrushing goalkeeper Darragh Holohan.
The former Kilkenny player turned provider soon after as he powered past the Dicksboro defence before hand passing sublimely to Sean Morrissey who volleyed the ball into the back of the net and secured the win.
Next up for Dicksboro is a clash with Glenmore while Bennettsbridge and O’Loughlin Gaels will go head-to-head on Friday evening.