St Oliver Plunkett's/ER1-13St Brigid's0-15
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BO 6.0 Helvetica
Brendan Bennett was the hero of the hour for 14-man St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh at Martin Savage Park on Sunday morning, as his coolly converted '65' deep into second-half stoppage-time ensured the progression of the Navan Road outfit to the Junior Hurling 'B' decider.
When influential centre-forward Emmet Hallahan received his marching orders in the latter stages of the opening period, their near rivals St Brigid's looked odds-on to emerge victorious.
However, although half-time substitute Kieran O'Sullivan amassed an impressive 0-6 haul for the Blanchardstown men, Plunkett's ultimately dug deep to ensure that their unbeaten run in this year's competition remains intact.
There is always a significant level of intrigue whenever these neighbour clubs face each other, and with so much at stake in this tie it came as little surprise that the teams were largely inseparable.
Centre-back Macdara Butler did get the ball rolling for Brigid's with a sixth-minute '65', but despite adding a further score through imposing full-forward Keith Morris, Plunkett's responded on each occasion through Darren Creighton and Hallahan.
Points from Mick Malone and Séamus Cantwell, either side of Bennett's maiden effort from the 65-metre-line, edged the hosts into the ascendancy.
But thanks to the unerring dead-ball accuracy of Morris and Butler, as well as the incisive attacking threat of Eoin Tyne, Brigid's had developed a two-point cushion by the 27th minute.
Creighton's second helped Plunkett's to settle once more, and even though Morris added a fifth point following Hallahan's dismissal on a second yellow card, Bennett's 0-2 salvo ensured that parity was restored to the play (0-8 apiece) in time for the interval.
Massive intensity was required in the absence of Hallahan, however, and within 11 minutes of his introduction, replacement free-taker O'Sullivan had added three points to his side's tally.
A determined Plunkett's reduced the deficit to a minimum with points from Bennett (free) and Eoin Whelan, but Luke Purtill missed a glorious goal chance for Brigid's at the end of the third quarter.
Had the net rattled in this instance, it would have been difficult for Plunkett's to bounce back, but despite conceding a point to the lively Purtill, midfielder Brian Molloy turned the game on its head with a superb 48th-minute major from close-range.
A quick O'Sullivan reply wiped out the slender Plunkett's lead, though, and when Brendan O'Halloran was hauled down by netminder Dara Carolan inside the square, the aforementioned O'Sullivan had an ideal opportunity to create significant daylight between the sides.
His forceful penalty subsequently hopped over the bar, but despite surrendering the lead again to a second Bennett '65', O'Sullivan's terrific long-range point once again put Brigid's in pole position on the hour.
Yet, with four minutes of injury-time added at the end of the half, there was still plenty of time for Plunkett's to force the outcome in their favour.
Though extra-time seemed the most likely option when the excellent Molloy scored on the run, the ice-cool Bennett eventually had the final say after Dermot Clarke's long-distance delivery had been turned behind.
Scorers - St Oliver Plunketts/ER: B Bennett 0-6 (3f, 3 '65'); B Molloy 1-1; D Creighton 0-2; E Whelan, E Hallahan, S Cantwell, M Malone 0-1 each. St Brigid's: K O'Sullivan 0-6 (0-3f, 0-1 pen); K Morris 0-5 (4f); M Butler 0-2 ('65'); E Tyne, L Purtill 0-1 each.
ST OLIVER PLUNKETT'S/ER: D Carolan; L O'Luain, D Byrne, A Hanrahan; I Fanzoni, D Clarke, I Markey; E Whelan, B Molloy; B Bennett, E Hallahan, S Cantwell; D McGrath, M Malone, D Creighton. Subs: A Darcy for Byrne (23), C Finn for Markey (30+1), D Greville for Malone (35), B Staunton for Cantwell (41), I Connaghan for McGrath (56).
ST BRIGID'S: C Cahill; G O'Meara, D Brooks, J Hanley; D Fitzsimons, M Butler, B Smith; S Keegan, S Moore; F Counihan, J Jordan, K Fox; E Tyne, K Morris, JJ Costigan. Subs: K O'Sullivan for Keegan (h-t), L Purtill for Morris (h-t), B O'Halloran for Counihan (48), C O'Doherty for Jordan (48).
MENTORS - St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: D Brennan, D Carr. St Brigid's: M O'Sullivan, D O'Doherty.
REFEREE: F Gaffney (Na Fianna).
WIDES - St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: 4 (2+2). St Brigid's: 9 (4+5).
CONDITIONS: A humid and sunny morning with a gentle breeze.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brenda Bennett (St Oliver Plunkett's/ER).