Dreadnots produce a storming finish
The suspicion that county champions Newtown Blues and the team they pick-pocketed in last year's final, Naomh Mairtin, are cruising along at a higher altitude than the chasing pack, gained further traction on opening weekend.
Outside of the top two lies a group of six or seven teams that are so closely matched you could throw a blanket over them.
Beaten semi-finalists in 2018, Dreadnots and St Patrick's fit snugly into that category, but the Clogherhead men finished an absorbing contest the stronger, outscoring their 2012 and 2014 county final conquerors 9-3 in the final quarter to take a grip on Group A.
An early goal deftly dispatched by Liam Shevlin also proved crucial in a contest that could have swung either way in the second period.
Pat's will feel Shevlin's strike was cheap, while Dreadnots will insist they exploited the space well and had the right man in the right place at the finish.
In truth, they'd both be right.
The goal and a point from the evergreen Derek Shevlin soon afterwards, left Pat's playing catch-up from early doors, and it took them around 20 minutes and a lot of toil to get back on level terms.
As a result they were the better team for a large chunk of the opening half, with Danny O'Connor and Cathal Grogan particularly menacing.
Trailing by 1-2 to 0-1, they kicked six points over the next 10 minutes, with just one in reply from Anthony Williams.
O'Connor's consistency in getting out in front of Dermot Campbell, prompted the Dreadnots' to move county man Williams in to the middle from left half back, a move that curbed Williams' attacking threat after the interval, but crucially it also put a tighter leash on O'Connor.
In a game of ultra-fine margins Pats would rue missed goal chances for Gavin Gregory just minutes after Shevlin netted for Dreadnots, and Jack Murphy shortly after the break as former county star Padraig Rath cleared off his own line.
Perhaps appropriately, the sides adjourned level, 1-5 to 0-8.
Jay Hughes edged Dreadnots back in front after the re-start and the young attacker would play an increasingly important role for the seasiders as the half progressed.
But in the meantime Pats rallied again, opening a two-point cushion with three scores in quick succession from Grogan (2) and Darren O'Hanlon.
Dreadnots were back on terms within minutes, however, and with the sides level entering the final quarter, the game was on a knife edge.
But Dreadnots were the more composed and assured side in the closing stages.
As expected the likes of Califf, Smith and Shevlin were to the fore, but Hughes also stepped up to the plate as Dreadnots merged with a deserved victory.
A repeat of last year's group stage win over Sean O'Mahony's this weekend would ensure a quarter-final berth as group winners.
Pats will have to do likewise the following weekend to keep their interest in Joe Ward alive, but on the evidence of this display if they do make the knockout stages they'll still be dangerous opponents.
ST PATRICK'S: Martin McEneaney; Jason Woods, Dessie Finnegan, Ciaran Murphy; Leonard Grey, Darren O'Hanlon 0-1, Eoghan Lafferty; Martin Breen, Paddy Keenan; Evan White, Daniel O'Connor 0-4, Aidan McCann; Gavin Gregory, Cathal Grogan 0-8 (3f), Jack Murphy 0-1. Subs: Adam Finnegan for G Gregory, Conor Grogan for M Breen, Tadhg O'Connor for A Finnegan.
DREADNOTS: Ciaran Cunningham; Brian Gargan, David O'Brien, Barry Faulkner; Derek Shevlin 0-1, Dermot Campbell, Anthony Williams 0-1; Cian McEvoy, James Califf 0-2 (1'45'); Liam Shevlin 1-2, Padraig Rath, Paraic Smith 0-2 (1f); Peter Kirwan 0-1, Jay Hughes 0-5 (2f), Nathan Sutherland 0-1. Subs: Carl Monaghan for B Gargan, Pat Lynch for C McEvoy, Conor Clarke for N Sutherland.
REFEREE: Stephen Johnson.