The Blues blow hot and cold as they overcome Kilkerley
Newtown Blues 4-11 Kilkerley Emmets 3-10
Newtown Blues served up equal helpings of hope and despair to their Joe Ward rivals at The Grove on Saturday night.
In a devastating first-half display they streaked 13 points clear of Kilkerley Emmets, striking fear into the heart of every defence in the county with an attacking masterclass.
But after the break, when they admittedly took their foot off the gas, their defensive frailties were laid bare for all to see, and will no doubt be dissected in meticulous detail.
Kilkerley probably didn't offer the kind of robust challenge that Blues might expect from the likes of Dreadnots or Sean O'Mahony's over the coming months, but they did rally gallantly in the second period to keep everyone on edge right to the finish.
But the opening half was all mostly one-way traffic.
With Andy McDonnell carrying his inter-county form back to the club scene, and nearly every Blues' forward getting the better of his marker, the goals came thick and fast.
There was an early warning shot when Ross Nally had a strike blocked down, but after opening a two-point lead through John Kermode and Ciaran Downey, Blues netted their first.
McDonnell was superb down the left, cutting in to feed Paul Moore, who fired low past Darren Meehan.
Within minutes Blues were awarded a penalty as another hairy moment for the Kilkerley defence saw a hand make contact with the ball on the deck.
Ross Nally made no mistake with a low drive to Meehan's right.
McDonnell was punching holes in the Kilkerley defence at will and he surged through one to fist over his side's third point, making it 2-3 to no score.
Tadhg McEneaney opened Kilkerley's account in the 14th minute and Shane Lennon lifted spirits even more with a trademark finish to the top corner with his left foot.
But it was only a fleeting moment of relief for Emmets.
Not sixty seconds later Ross Nally flicked on to Robbie Carr who slotted home their third goal.
And again, Darren Meehan had barely fished the ball out of the back of the net, than Conor Moore forced him into a smart save, only for the rebound to land to Downey, who converted at the second attempt.
A free from Nally, followed by a Carr point made it 4-5 to 1-1 and it looked like game over for Kilkerley.
But they did limit the damage before the break. McEneaney and Carr traded points, but in stoppage time Shane Lennon converted a penalty he won himself to make it 4-6 to 2-2 at the interval.
It took Kilkerley a while to jump start their comeback as Nally and Carr traded early second-half scores with McEneaney and Sean Hand to keep the gap at 10.
But as the Blues visibly eased off the throttle, Kilkerley chipped away at the deficit, kicking the next six scores with just one point by way of a reply.
But a Nally free made it 4-10 to 2-9 and Kilkerley didn't reduce it any further until injury-time when James Fegan netted their third goal and Conor Kirk kicked a fine point from distance, putting just a goal in it.
But time wasn't on Kilkerley's side and as the seconds ticked away, Nally kicked an insurance score for the Blues.
NEWTOWN BLUES: Dean Martin; Niall Costello, Fergal Donohue, Ronan Levins; Kevin Carr, Cormac Reynolds, Paul Moore 1-0; Andy McDonnell 0-1, John Kermode 0-1; Conor Moore, Colm Judge, Robbie Carr 1-3; Ciaran Downey 1-1, Ross Nally 1-5 (1-0 pen, 3f), Conor Branigan. Subs: Ian Connor for Paul Moore (ht), Jimmy Murray for C Branigan (36), Aidan O'Brien for I Connor (48), Keith Lynch for K Kermode (53).
KILKERLEY EMMETS: Darren Meehan; Niall Mulholland, Adam Shields, Alan McGeough; Killian Kampes, Ciaran Bellew, Cormac Bellew; James Shields, Shaun McElroy; Rian Hand, Sean Hand 0-1, James Fegan 1-0; Daniel McKeown, Shane Lennon 2-1 (1-0 pen), Tadhg McEneaney 0-7 (4f). Subs: Conall McEneaney for K Kampes (18), Conor Kirk 0-1 for J Shields (41).
REFEREE: Kevin Brady.