Rathnure 5-11 Oulart-Ballagh 2-17
There was high drama in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday as a late Seán O'Connor goal saw Rathnure dump old adversaries Oulart-The Ballagh out of the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship race, forcing them to look on from the sidelines when the title is decided in the coming weeks.
The excitement didn't end there though in a high-octane Group B encounter, as Oulart-The Ballagh had the opportunity to draw level seconds later when they were awarded a 60th-minute penalty.
Goalkeeper Conor O'Leary made the long walk forward but his opposite number, Dermot Flynn, pulled off a fabulous save to keep the three-point advantage intact.
The result means Rathnure march on to a quarter-final meeting with Rapparees, while Oulart-The Ballagh must now wait until 2019 to get another crack at further championship honours.
It was frenetic stuff from the outset with both defences being carved open at will, and after Rory Higgins and Michael Redmond had picked off early points for Rathnure, they almost plundered a goal, but Conor O'Leary pulled off a fine save from Jack Guiney in the sixth minute.
Seconds later the onion sack was rattled at the other end when a delicate pass from Murtha Doyle put Nicky Kirwan in the clear, and after his initial effort was saved, he was played in again by Garrett Sinnott, and this time he made no mistake, finding the corner of the net.
The goal chances continued to arrive like taxis to a bustling rank, with Rathnure's Rory Higgins next to be offered up an opportunity when he was found by Seánie Redmond, but he blazed his effort wide of the far post.
Within seconds Billy Dunne sluiced through the defence at the other end, but Dermot Flynn was equal to his shot.
Nicky Kirwan was the sole scorer for Oulart-The Ballagh as they built up a 1-3 to 0-3 advantage by the 17th minute, with Eoin Boggan replying with a monster effort, in a low-scoring but relentless opening period.
With Oulart-The Ballagh threatening to get on top, Rathnure then got the fillip they needed in the 26th minute when Michael Redmond flicked the ball into the path of Jack Guiney, who didn't need a second invitation as he fired past O'Leary.
Eye-catching points from Des Mythen and Billy Dunne put Oulart-The Ballagh three clear, but the black and ambers went into the half-time break with a real spring in their step after pouncing for an equalising goal, when Ciarán O'Connor was on to an Eoin Higgins block like a flash, before driving the ball home to leave the sides deadlocked at 2-4 to 1-7.
Oulart-The Ballagh managed to eke out a four-point lead by the 47th minute when substitute Martin Og Storey split the posts to put his side 2-15 to 3-8 ahead.
Their goal came from the stick of Des Mythen in the second minute of the half when he broke clear from an O'Leary puck-out and finished with confidence.
However, the Rathnure response was quick as three minutes later Michael Redmond found Ciarán O'Connor, who turned and planted the ball past O'Leary.
After the on-song Jack Guiney had converted a free in the 48th minute, Rory Higgins went on a lung-bursting run, before teeing up Seánie Redmond who blasted to the net to draw Rathnure level (4-9 to 2-15).
They then nosed two in front with points from Guiney and Michael Redmond, but back came Oulart-The Ballagh and scores from Peter Sutton and Garrett Sinnott had them all square by the 59th minute.
The parity didn't last long though, as within a minute substitute Seán O'Connor gathered a Shane Lawlor delivery and rifled the ball past O'Leary.
Seconds later Garrett Sinnott was taken down for a penalty and Oulart-The Ballagh had one last chance for salvation.
Up stepped O'Leary but Dermot Flynn stretched every sinew to pull off a fantastic save and the defence scrambled the ball to safety.
Rathnure: Dermot Flynn (capt.); Paddy Whiteley, Brian Quigley, Eoin Boggan (0-1); Podge Doyle (0-1), Cathal O'Connor, Aidan Redmond; Richie Flynn, Eoin Higgins; Shane Lawlor (0-1), Jack Guiney (1-4, 0-3 frees), Michael Redmond (0-3); Rory Higgins (0-1), Seánie Redmond (1-0), Ciarán O'Connor (2-0). Subs. - Seán O'Connor (1-0) for A. Redmond (HT), Micheál O'Connor for R. Flynn (45), James Tobin for S. Redmond (48), Declan Foley for M. Redmond (54).
Oulart-The Ballagh: Conor O'Leary; Barry Kehoe, Keith Rossiter, Ian Storey; Eamon Murphy, Shaun Murphy (capt.), Dennis Morton; Rory Jacob, Peter Murphy (0-2); Billy Dunne (0-3, 1 free), Des Mythen (1-2), Anthony Roche; Murtha Doyle, Garrett Sinnott (0-2), Nicky Kirwan (1-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 '65). Subs. - Kevin Sheridan for Kehoe (34), Martin Og Storey (0-1) for Roche (38), Kevin Nimmo for Sheridan (49), Peter Sutton (0-1) for Mythen (54).
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).