AVONDALE have reclaimed a place at the top table of Wicklow football in 2013 after an absence of seven years from Senior ranks.
They last played Senior football in 2005 and only returned there at Aughrim on Saturday by the skin of their teeth with the winner by Ian Heffernan coming deep in injury time after a cracking Intermediate football final.
This was a local derby match between neighbours, which could be a recipe to bring out the best or the worst in teams, but Avondale and Ballinacor can both take a deserved bow after serving up a display of football that showcased everything that is good about the game.
The exchanges fairly hummed, throbbed and ebbed and flowed from the first to the last toot of Stephen McNulty's whistle and we feel sure most people in the crowd would not have complained had the match ended in a draw and we were going to be served with a second helping.
Ballinacor started at breakneck speed as star midfield Paddy Byrne took off like a rocket from the throw in and posted a point on the board inside 10 seconds; Ian Heffernan grabbed the equalizer from a free a minute later, setting the scene for a titanic contest from these football gladiators.
Paddy, one of seven Byrnes on the Ballinacor team, was highlighting his tremendous football skills in the centre of the park, roving corner-forward Conor Parsons was getting through a lot of work outfield without reaping a harvest, full-forward Ger Byrne was the sharpshooter.
David Carter took an off-load from Paddy Byrne to put Ballinacor back in front and his midfielder partner Christopher Murphy fired a shot between the sticks to extend the lead to two, emphasising their brighter start to the match.
Avondale settled and provided us with a cracking contest. Full-forward Eugene Dunne was a tireless worker for the Dales throughout, he covered a huge swath of the pitch to win ball and put his team on the attack.
On 10 minutes Dunne kicked a magnificent point. Ballinacor's centre-back James Byrne surged forward but his teasing shot, aimed under the crossbar, was punched clear by Avondale's keeper Brian Burke under pressure.
However Ballinacor's goalie Ciaran O'Neill got no such opportunity to save from Ryan Cahill in the 19th minute. Eugene Heffernan set up the chance for Cahill, who fired a screamer to the left hand corner of the net for a super goal.
Avondale were ahead by 1-2 to 0-3. However it was going to take more than just one sucker punch to knockout this game and gallant Ballinacor side, who stormed back with a string of points from Paddy Byrne, Ger Byrne (one from free, the other from play) to regain the lead at half time 0-6 to 1-2.
Conor McGraynor played in the full-forward line despite wearing the number 9 strip. In the semi-final he played a major role in beating Aughrim, but Ballinacor were determined not to let him play the same pivotal role against them.
In the first half two defenders were delegated to watch McGraynor who, consequently, was afforded little freedom to shine. Avondale were back on level terms for a third time inside a minute of the restart after Ian Heffernan swung a free between the posts.
Then the game was held up for some 13 minutes while ambulance personnel tended to Avondale substitute Brian Olohan who picked un a nasty gash to his leg in an unfortunate accident when he was impaled on the wire fence as players tussled for the ball on the sideline.
When play eventually resumed Barry Sheehan fetched another great ball out of the clouds to set up Conor McGraynor for his only score, an excellent point under pressure. Once more the pendulum had swung towards the Dales who were ahead 1-4 to 0-6.
Play was to continue fluctuating between the teams right to the end. Denis Heffernan came off the bench for Ballinacor and almost immediately he made his mark with an equalising point following good work by James Byrne, John Davitt and Philip Byrne.
Avondale dipped into their bench for fresh legs, bringing on Benny Byrne and Seamus McGraynor. Ian Heffernan pointed another free, the Dales in front. Conor Parsons hit the jackpot at long last and the teams were level for a fifth time - 0-8 to 1-5.
There was still over 10 minutes of injury time left on the clock. The teams showed no signs of flagging. They kept going at it hell for leather.
Ian Heffernan raised two more white flags for Avondale, the second from another placed ball. Full-forward Ger Byrne stepped up to the plate for Ballinacor from a free and from play and the teams were deadlocked for a sixth time.
People in the press dugout as well as on the terraces were praying the game would end in a draw; that we would have a reprise of the final in a replay. Neither team deserved to lose, both had given their all.
Thirteen minutes into injury time Avondale were awarded another free in an unmissable position in front of the posts. Ian Heffernan made no mistake with the kick. Avondale up by one point, the clock ticking down fast.
Moments later Avondale substitute Benny Byrne volleyed wide of the far left hand post. The final whistle sent the Avondale players into wild victory celebrations.
For Ballinacor there was unbearable heartbreak, but they can draw some comfort from the fact that they had played their part in making this a memorable intermediate final to equal the many epic deciders that had gone before.
Referee Stephen McNulty can also feel might pleased with his performance. He let the play flow and contributed to making it a pacy game of football throughout.
Scorers for Avondale: Ryan Cahill (1-0), Ian Heffernan (0-6 five frees), Conor McGraynor (0-1), Eugene Dunne (0-1).
Ballinacor: Ger Byrne (0-4 two frees), Paddy Byrne (0-2), Chris Murphy (0-1), Conor Parsons (0-1), David Carter (0-1), Denis Heffernan (0-1).