A FINAL quarter tour de force from Tyrone's Peter Harte helped St Mary's escape a potentially tricky situation with a flattering nine-point margin at Ballykelly.
The alarm bells were ringing for the hot favourites as Tralee raced into an early lead, as they ran the ball cleverly and finished sharply.
St Mary's began to move the ball more intelligently themselves, however, and scored six consecutive points to lead by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time.
But with Tralee having the wind in their favour in the second half, the prospect of a shock result was still very much alive.
Harte, however, swung over a couple of points before scoring a brilliant 50th minute goal. He beat a couple of defenders on a slaloming run before exchanging passes with Danny Herron and palming to the net.
From that juncture, there was no comeback and Harte converted two frees to push his side 10 points clear.
Alan O'Donoghue slotted a late free for a gallant Tralee outfit.
SCORERS – St Mary's: P Harte 1-6 (3f), D McCusker 0-3, C Clarke, A Forker 0-2 each; N Morgan (1f), R Sexton (1f) 0-1f each; IT Tralee: S Carroll 0-3, I Corbett, A O'Donoghue (2f) 0-2 each, D Wallace, B O'Hehir 0-1 each.
ST MARY'S – N Morgan; S Mullan, N Donnelly, M Murray; D McCusker, C O'Hara, B Doyle; C Clarke, D McBride; A Forker, D Herron, N Sludden; P Harte, M Stevenson, R Sexton. Sub: D McKinless for Stevenson (43).
IT TRALEE – S Dea; M Brosnan, J Scully, D Larkin; G O'Grady, D Cahillane, S McCarthy; D Sommers, S Carroll; D Wallace, A O'Donoghue, B Goff; R Deane, I Corbett, B O'Hehir.
REF – F Barry (Kildare).