Holders shine in extra-time
Fruitful first title defence
Ronan Devereux scored the winning goal, just two minutes from the end of extra-time, to send Crossabeg-Ballymurn past Starlights in the Greenstar Under-21 football championship preliminary round at Bellefield on Saturday.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn 2-10 Starlights 0-13 (AET)
With the game level (1-10 to 0-13) after an energy-sapping 78 minutes, Devereux latched on to Oisín Foley's perfect pass, after great build-up play by Glen Murphy and Cormac O'Rourke, cut inside and went past goalkeeper Gary Murphy before slotting low to the hosts' net.
It proved to be the final score, the decider, in a game that was impossible to call right up until that moment of pure quality. Starlights might feel like this is a chance that got away as they played pretty well, but they will look back with regret on a few chances that slipped away at vital times.
Like the final raised flag of the game, the first was also for a Crossabeg-Ballymurn goal. It was the product of a long Sam Kelly ball that Glen Murphy took and fired to the Starlights net in the third minute.
After the early major, Starlights played a lot of the more impressive football in the first-half. They scored eight points with Aaron Dobbs kicking four frees and Dylan McVeigh flighting over two fantastic points as they went in 0-8 to 1-4 ahead.
Having scored eight times in the first period, the Enniscorthy boys will be disappointed to add just five more in the 50 that would still be played. They held a two-point lead in the 40th minute after Darragh Pepper picked off his second score.
Pepper added a third with five minutes left but in the meantime Pádraig Foley had pointed and Glen Murphy had contributed a brace of minors.
Level (0-11 to 1-8) after Pepper's score, Starlights had the best chance to win it when Dobbs looked to have send Nick Doyle away, but the Crossabeg-Ballymurn defence did superbly to get back and thwart the danger in added time.
Murphy kicked the defending champions into a 1-9 to 0-11 lead a minute into extra-time, only for Conor Farrell to level the game for the fifth time in the 68th minute.
Again Crossabeg-Ballymurn started a half on the front foot when Robert Byrne registered, yet Nick Doyle replied with a clinical finish four minutes later.
It was going to take something special to split the sides in this repeat of last year's final, and Ronan Devereux provided it with his goal two minutes from time to book a home quarter-final tie against Dunbrody Gaels.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: James White; Martin Redmond, Oisín Foley, Conor Gormley; Conor Barlow, Sam Kelly, Shane Whelan (0-1); Paddy Devereux, Pádraig Foley (0-2); Cormac O'Rourke (capt., 0-1), Bill Eviston, David Kehoe (0-1); Glen Murphy (1-4, 0-2 frees), Robert Byrne (0-1), Ronan Devereux (1-0). Subs. - Luke Redmond for Whelan (31), Eoin O'Connor for Barlow (52), Oran Maddock for L. Redmond (64).
Starlights: Gary Murphy; Ronan Kirwan, Daniel O'Brien, Seán Cloherty; Ben Edwards, Dillon Redmond, Ryan Hadley; Liam Ryan (capt.), Nick Doyle (0-1); Lenny Connolly, Conor Farrell (0-2), Ryan Mahon; Dylan McVeigh (0-2), Darragh Pepper (0-3), Aaron Dobbs (0-5 frees).
Referee: John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).