THIS was real belter at Blakestown on Sunday morning. Two teams giving their all for 80 minutes of tough, hard Championship football. In the end, they both had to be content with another crack after extra-time couldn't separate St Peregrine's and Fingal Ravens.
ST PEREGRINE'S 2-16 FINGAL RAVENS 3-13
The Junior Championship can be one of the best in terms of excitement as it is still the old style straight knockout format. Everything can be lost on the basis of one game and those high stakes were obvious as players put their bodies on the line for the entirety of this first-round contest.
Neither side can complain about the result, however. The visitors looked like they had made the decisive burst when they hit three goals in five minutes before the break to leave Peregrine's shell-shocked and trailing by 1-6 to 3-6.
But the Blakestown outfit regrouped to dominate the second period and looked like they had done enough, only for two late Peter Tormey points to force the additional 20 minutes.
And Tormey also got the scoring under way with a monster effort inside 40 seconds. Saints, though, would have the better of the opening exchanges and hit 1-2 without reply by the end of the first quarter.
Centre-back Ben Keyes opened their account with a well-drilled 45 on five minutes before a Mark McSherry free put them ahead in the following passage of play.
Then came the first of the game's five goals. A 30-metre run from wing-back Michael Doda saw him burst into his opponents' half before placing a dangerous pass into the square. The ball was expertly gathered by Dan Vahey, whose movement took him away from his marker and created the space to fire into the bottom corner.
Another from Tormey was the Ravens' response, and it was score for score until, in the 23rd minute, a mix up in the Peregrine's rearguard was ruthlessly punished by Ray Fitzpatrick's low finish to the net.
McSharry and Cathal Begg exchanged points as stalemate looked assured for half-time. Ravens had other ideas, however, and a powerful run by Mick Whyte ripped through Peregrine's and he laid on the ball for Cody to blast home. They weren't finished. Fitzpatrick won the resultant kick-out, quickly played Begg in on goal and he made no mistake finding the roof of the net.
But the interval seemed to drain the momentum from the Fingal men as a Darren McCarthy free was all they had to show for 27 minutes of the second half.
In that period Peregrine's fired 1-6 without reply. McSherry was the undoubted go-to man in the attack, kicking some excellent scores, with one in particular from underneath the stand fit to grace any stage.
And when Tom Reilly's goal from an unstoppable 20-metre shot followed by a point from Gary Carroll put them two ahead entering the final five minutes, they appeared certainties for victory.
Tormey failed to read the script, however, as a free from a seemingly impossible angle along with a fine individual effort two minutes into injury time forced a draw.
The centre-forward continued to wreak havoc as he put Ravens ahead upon the restart. Carroll and Vahey responded for Peregrine's, giving them a narrow lead at half-time of extra-time. Tormey once again pulled his team level. His opposite number, Reilly, almost went one better when his fierce shot was deflected over by Eoin Kettle to deny Peregrine's a match-winning goal.
They held the lead but Darragh Kavanagh got on the end of a final Ravens attack to ensure the replay.