Between hip injuries and studies, the Bennetts, Stephen and Shane came through Waterford’s battle against Cork with flying colours on Sunday.
Waterford hurling is on a high after Sunday’s fantastic victory over Cork. Both Stephen and Shane Bennett had significant roles to play and both have different stories behind their appearances in Thurles yesterday.
Along with their brother Kieran, Stephen and Shane made history in 2012 by becoming the first set of three brothers to line out for a county minor team. At the time, Shane was only 15 years of age.
However, for the two Ballysagart men who played their part in Waterford’s victory against The Rebels, both have a story to tell. We’ll start with the older Bennett, Stephen who starred from a roaming centre forward role on Sunday.
Bennett has had his fair share of injuries problems since bursting on to the inter-county minor scene at the age of 16. He has been hampered by recurring hip problems which have required surgery on more than one occasion.
At the end of the 2012 season, Stephen Bennett was only 17 when he was required to undergo double hip surgery. He returned in 2013 to win Waterford’s young hurler of the year award and star at full forward as the Déise minors ended a 65 year wait for All-Ireland minor glory.
After leading the line in attack for the victorious Waterford minors with a remarkable tally of nine championship goals, he then steered his club Ballysagart to county and Munster junior glory.
A prolonged club campaign did Stephen no favours, as his hip problems recurred.
2014 was a season to forget for Bennett on the inter-county stage. A mere 10 minutes, in their qualifier defeat to Wexford was all the Ballysagart man got.
His long 2013 season had caught up with him and he was required to attend the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry for further rehab.
A long winter ensued for Bennett. Recovery work and rehab dominated the 19-year-old’s schedule. In March, he impressed upon Derek McGrath with a sublime 1-04 against Antrim. His first senior league campaign ended in success for Bennett, starring in the league final win against Cork.
A first championship start yesterday was just reward for the Ballysagart man, who has put in Trojan effort. Although the injury hasn’t gone away fully, it’s improving and that will do for now as Stephen is quickly becoming a pivotal player for McGrath’s charges.
As for Stephen’s younger brother, Shane, a story of a different kind unfolded yesterday. The 18-year-old came off the bench to score two critical points for the men in blue and white.
However, what makes it more remarkable, is that Shane is currently sitting his leaving certificate exams. He started the weekend by sitting Maths paper 1 on Friday morning and finished it off by scoring two points in Thurles on Sunday afternoon.
Dedicated would be an understatement if you were to describe Bennett’s commitment to the cause. When questioned during the week about the younger Bennett’s availability, Derek McGrath stated to the Irish Examiner that he’d let the player decide.
“He is doing his Leaving Cert on Wednesday so it’s a big decision for him and his family, in terms of playing any type of role next Sunday. We’re not sure.”
One thing is for sure is that both Bennetts will be hugely important to Waterford as they bid to take home the Munster crown in five weeks time.
For now though, recovery for one and exams for the other.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena.