Ballyhale: 2-20 Bennettsbridge: 2-17
By Brendan O'Brien at Nowlan Park
Henry Shefflin had quite the knack for claiming silverware as a player and the Kilkenny legend has added his first title as a manager with his Ballyhale Shamrocks side claiming the county senior title this afternoon.
Ballyhale never trailed, leading from the moment they opened the scoring in the first minute through to injury-time to earn a 16th senior crown for the club and bring them within four of Tullaroan at the top of the roll of honour.
TJ Reid, not for the first time with club or county, was the spearhead. The centre-half forward had 1-8 on the board by the interval, by which they led by 10 points, and added another pair of points on the restart as the 'Bridge sought to overcome a painfully slow start.
Bennettsbridge's ascent up the ladder in Kilkenny had been well signposted, from underage success and their journey though the junior and intermediate ranks since 2014, but their status as underdogs and unfamiliarity with the big occasion demanded a swift and sure start here.
They didn't get it.
It could hardly have gone worse, in fact. Ballyhale had 1-5 on the board before the 'Bridge had even begun to find their feet and – surprise, surprise – their tormentor-in-chief was TJ Reid who had a goal and three points to his credit by that early stage.
Reid would end the half with 1-8 – and three wides to boot - with six of the points coming from dead balls. The 'Bridge, to be fair, weren't happy at being trodden on and launched a determined riposte midway through the half only to be caught at the back again.
Eoin Cody's 16th-minute goal did the damage this time, stretching the advantage back out to eight points at that stage and deflating any sense of little momentum gained by their pursuers with four of the previous five points.
The groans in the 9,145 crowd told the full story.
Shamrocks were profiting time and again from their direct hurling. Reid started in the company of Jason Cleere before Enda Morrissey took over the duties of chaperone, but the back division never looked truly comfortable in their surroundings.
Trailing 2-12 to 0-8 at the break, Bennettsbridge needed something to happen quick sharp if the game and the occasion wasn't to slip out of sight and they got it within five minutes with a goal from full-forward Brian Lannon.
A slip by corner-back Conor Walsh gave Lannon the time to find his spot in the rigging but it was the same man's quick reactions from a high ball in from goalkeeper Enda Cleere seven minutes later that delivered his second three-pointer.
Lannon's instinctive overhead flick of the wrists squeezed the deficit to four points while breathing new life into the contest. That and, it should be said, a trio of missed goal chances at the other end for a succession of Ballyhale players between the 39th and 49th minutes.
But the closest Bennettsbridge could get over the course of the next 18 minutes and stoppage time was three points.
Close, but not close enough.
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: TJ Reid (1-10, 0-8 frees); E Cody (1-1); B Cody (0-2); E Shefflin, D Mullen, R Corcoran, E Reid, C Fennelly, A Mullen and M Aylward (all 0-1).
Scorers for Bennettsbridge: B Lannon (2-1); N Cleere (0-7 frees): E Morrissey, J Cleere and A Cleere (all 0-2); R Lennon, L Blanchfield and S Morrissey (all 0-1).
Ballyhale Shamrocks: D Mason; C Walsh, J Holden, B Butler; E Shefflin, M Fennelly, R Reid; R Corcoran, D Mullen; E Cody, TJ Reid, B Cody; E Reid, C Fennelly, A Mullen.
Subs: M Aylward for E Reid (49); P Mullen for D Mullen (54); J Cuddihy for E Cody (60); G Butler for Shefflin (71); B Aylward for B Cody (63).
Bennettsbridge: E Cleere; C Murphy, R Lennon, C Wafer; D Wafer, J Cleere, E Morrissey; K Blanchfield, D Blanchfield; A Cleere, L Blanchfield, N Cleere; D Walsh, B Lannon, S Morrissey.
Subs: D Coyne for Walsh (34).
Referee: P Cahill (Dunamaggin).