Just when Stephen Bennett thinks he's out, hurling pulls him back in 2 months ago

Just when Stephen Bennett thinks he's out, hurling pulls him back in

Kieran's already in Australia and Shane is on the way out to him.

It means that, in two weeks time, Stephen will be one of only two Bennett brothers left in Ballysaggart. He's currently the last remaining Bennett brother on the Waterford panel.


Truth be told, he didn't think he'd last this long. It was at the start of the 2020 season when he told Paraic Fanning, the county's then manager, that he'd be gone for the year.

Covid struck and Stephen stayed put.

He's been thinking about leaving every year since but just when he thinks he's out, hurling pulls him back in. He concedes now that emigrating 'might not be for him.' He hails his girlfriend Melanie for her patience and says that, over the last few years, he's never enjoyed his hurling more.

Still though, those snaps from sunny Melbourne do leave an impression.


"Yeah, it wasn't too bad in his first month when he left in August, it was lashing rain but every morning getting up now going to work, it's dark for us and he's sending lovely 38 degrees pictures coming home from work! So he's enjoying it yeah.

"And Shane is going over there too, they're living a two minute walk from each other, so it's exciting for them.

"I don't know is it the right thing or whatever I'm doing, but I'm trying to stay back for another year and we'll see.

Stephen & Shane Bennett celebrate with Austin Gleeson and Cormac Curran after winning the 2013 All-Ireland minor hurling final.

"We've another club player gone as well, so yeah, it'll be fun next year.

"We got to the county final in intermediate this year, lost after extra-time, but we had a 46 year old playing corner back, and he played the full 80 minutes. And his son came on corner forward.

For Stephen, it always comes back to Ballysaggart, back to the hurling. It's one of those tiny rural villages that, somehow, has achieved success as a hurling team.


The Bennett brothers, Stephen, Kieran, Shane, Ryan and their father Pat all had a big part to play in that, and it was a glorious vindication in 2021, when they beat Lismore to win the club's first ever senior club championship match in Waterford.

But the future isn't looking as bright.

"I think we had one or two new lads this year, and I don't know is there only two boys between the ages of three and 15 in the parish this year, so we'll be struggling for another while.

"We'll be playing 'til we're about 50," he laughs.

He might not even be joking.


For now though, all his focus is on having a big year with Waterford. He started like a house on fire in 2022, burning it up on his way to a National League title but he lost that form in the championship and so too did Waterford.

Davy Fitzgerald has replaced Liam Cahill in the mean-time and Stephen has been very impressed by the Clare man's ability to bring the panel together.

"You seen that by him staying five years in Wexford, and it's very hard to stay five years unless the players really buy into it so yeah, genuinely, he actually is massive on the team getting to know each other more.

"Do you know, you'd be playing together, but you mightn't know half the lads outside of the field, or things about them, so he genuinely is getting us a bit closer so it is really fun so far.

Tipperary icon Eoin Kelly and former Irish rugby star Donncha O'Callaghan are a part of Fitzgerald's back-room team and Bennett has been impressed by both of them.

"Eoin is brilliant, in fairness, sure he's probably the best forward that ever played, so if we can't learn anything off him, I'd be saying it's our problem, something wrong with us.

"It's brilliant getting people like his opinions and ways of thinking and you know by him, he's such a hurling person, he's big into wanting the ball.

"Why are fellas panicking on the ball? This sort of thing. He's very good.

"Donncha's been in a few different meetings just talking to us. We've only met him the odd time so yeah, if you can't get little things from fellas like this, you're in the wrong place.

"They've achieved so much so, it's great to try get bits of information off them."

So is this the final dance before a spall travelling?

"I think I'm after telling poor Melanie at home that we'd go away every year for the last four years.

"And I don't know, now you're always saying 'one more year, one more year,' no I don't know.

"Life is grand. I'm happy enough. So I don't feel the need to go anywhere.

"I know loads of people are doing it, but we'll see how it goes. We're fixed for these six months and we'll see then..."

Dublin on Sunday first. We'll see after that.