Shooters on form
IFC Group B: Crossabeg-Ballymurn 0-13 HWH-Bunclody 2-4
Don't be surprised if Crossabeg-Ballymurn and HWH-Bunclody lock horns again at the business end of the Amber Springs/Ashdown Park Hotels Intermediate football championship.
And if they do, the last two beaten finalists are likely to produce a higher standard than the fare served up in this Group B clash in Bellefield on Saturday where a lot of understandable ring-rustiness was evident.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn won't mind that in the least, after repeating their semi-final success of last year over the same opponents, albeit by just three points this time rather than nine.
HWH-Bunclody would no doubt fancy their chances if they got another crack at the Wexford District side with Martin O'Connor and Aidan Nolan in their ranks, and they were within inches of snatching a draw in this clash.
Corner-forward Kevin Dunne had already netted twice and was poised for a hat-trick when he latched on to a long delivery from Adam Hogan nearly two minutes into added time, but his low shot veered to the right and narrowly wide.
That's how close HWH-Bunclody were to snatching a point, but on the whole Crossabeg-Ballymurn were the better team and deserved to end their rivals' unbeaten start to the campaign.
The winners' ability to get their two main shooters on the ball in the best positions made all the difference, with Cormac O'Rourke and Mark Byrne contributing eight points between them from play.
They were their sole first-half marksmen, with a trio from the former plus two via the latter leaving Crossabeg-Ballymurn on level terms (0-5 to 1-2) at the break.
HWH-Bunclody didn't lead at any stage, with Ben Turner denying Eoin Kelly a goal when he saved his shot in the fifth minute,.
Their own netminder, Patrick Kavanagh, foiled Jack Fortune early in the second quarter, and the Carlow border crew drew level in the 29th minute thanks to a piece of opportunism.
Centre-back John Dunne didn't rise his free off the ground as he sought a point, but the ball was gathered by Kevin Dunne who turned and buried it in one swift movement.
There was a big statement of intent from Crossabeg-Ballymurn on the re-start when Paddy Devereux and Cian Lambert (two) fired over three points inside four minutes.
And with captain Oisín Foley marshalling a very tight defence, and four of the original HWH-Bunclody attack unable to score from play, that new-found advantage didn't look in any doubt until Kevin Dunne's late miss.
It was 0-11 to 1-3 by the end of the third quarter, with O'Rourke (two) and Byrne continuing their scoring exploits, and the former widened the gap to six before HWH-Bunclody did garner some hope from their second goal.
Indeed, the sloppy nature of both green flags conceded will be the only real concern for the victors, as Dunne was able to finish to the net from close range after a Peter Atkinson lay-off was initially flicked on to the woodwork by Pádraig Sinnott (0-12 to 2-3).
Substitute Sam Kelly pointed before Pádraig Foley struck the crossbar, while Mark O'Connor had a shot saved by Patrick Kavanagh in the 56th minute.
An Eoin Kelly free made it a one-score game, and it was too close for comfort at the death for the winners as they were extremely relieved to see Kevin Dunne's shot going to the outside of the right post by a matter of inches.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Ben Turner; Martin Redmond, Oisín Foley (capt.), Robbie Murphy; Seamus Carroll, Ronan Devereux, Conor Devereux; Paddy Devereux (0-1), David Kehoe; Cian Lambert (0-2), Pádraig Foley, Jack Fortune; Mark O'Connor, Cormac O'Rourke (0-6, 1 free), Mark Byrne (0-3). Subs. - Sam Kelly (0-1) for Fortune (37), Bill Eviston for Lambert (50), Matty Sludds for O'Connor (59).
HWH-Bunclody: Patrick Kavanagh; Jamie Kavanagh, Colm Farrell, Adam Hogan; Ciarán Kavanagh (0-1), John Dunne (0-1), Billy Kelly; Pádraig Sinnott, Seán Kenny; Josh Martin, Eoin Kelly (0-1 free), Cathal Doyle (0-1); Kevin Dunne (2-0), Peter Atkinson, Eddie Black. Subs. - Conor Crean for J. Kavanagh (HT), Keith O'Hara for Doyle (43).
Referee: Eddie O'Sullivan (Kilanerin)