James Stephens 1-20
For the second consecutive year, James Stephens have advanced to the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals while Bennettsbridge will go no further than the quarter-final stages following a superb victory for the relegation semi-finalists at UPMC Nowlan Park on Saturday.
A strong end to the game for the Village was critical as they came good when it mattered most.
it was Bennettsbridge who started the stronger of the two sides, however.
Hugh O’Neill and Kevin Blanchfield grabbed early scores from play for Bennettsbridge who were reliant on Nicky Cleere’s frees in the first half to keep them in the lead.
The Village’s Niall Brassil dispatched of five dead ball situations of his own and a point apiece by Matthew Ruth, Luke Scanlon and Brassil from play left a single point between the sides at the half-time break, Bennettsbridge 0-09 to 0-08 James Stephens.
The James Stephens and Bennettsbridge free-takers unsurprisingly began the scoring in the second half with both sides looking as thought the fear of losing was overwhelming them throughout a disappointing spectacle.
Cleere, O’Neill and Ciaran Brennan continued the league finalists’ charge in the third quarter, while the unusually quiet Eoin Guilfoyle and the sharp Brassil kept Seamus Dwyer’s men in contention, Bennettsbridge 0-14 to 0-14 James Stephens.
Andy Parsons gave the city club the lead with just over ten minutes left in normal time as they tried to gain a stranglehold on a tense encounter and they did just that when Tadhg O’Dwyer received the ball off Willie Spencer and made no mistake with the finish to get a crucial goal.
An equally key goal came immediately after as Bennettsbridge responded through their talisman Nicky Cleere who followed up another free with a tidy finish to the back of the net.
The prospects of a semi-final place seemed to hamper both teams as the game ran towards its conclusion with a lull period taking place in terms of scoring.
That eventually came to an end thanks to points from Brassil and Tadhg O’Dwyer and Enda Cleere made two remarkable late saves to keep Willie Maher’s men within touching distance.
Parsons doubled his tally to give the 2011 champions a three-point cushion heading into additional time and Guilfoyle utilised his pace once more by running at the ‘Bridge’s back line before slotting a sublime shot over the bar to make it James Stephens 1-20 to 1-15 Bennettsbridge.
James Stephens join Tullaroan in the draw for the semi-finals with the remaining quarter-finals taking place tomorrow and next weekend.