St. Anne's 3-17 Crossabeg-Ballymurn 2-18
Two late points from Diarmuid O'Keeffe proved to be the difference between the sides as last year's beaten finalists St. Anne's scraped past Crossabeg-Ballymurn in an entertaining Pettitt's Senior hurling championship Group A encounter in Taghmon on Tuesday.
The powerhouse midfielder had a quiet enough game by his own sky-high standards, but quality players tend to come up with the goods when needed, and O'Keeffe did just that, slotting over a couple of neat scores to get his side over the line.
It was his inter-county colleague Liam Óg McGovern that did a lot of the damage in the opening half when he was a real thorn in the side of the Crossabeg-Ballymurn defence. His direct running caused them all sorts of headaches, while his clinical finishing yielded two goals to help his side to a 2-8 to 1-7 half-time advantage.
McGovern's influence waned somewhat after the interval as their opponents built up a head of steam, and when Mark Byrne sliced over a superb line ball in the 54th minute to give Crossabeg-Ballymurn a two-point advantage they looked like they could kick on.
A Mikey Fogarty goal seconds later edged St. Anne's back in front, but then points from Jack Fortune and substitute Brody Murphy swung the pendulum back in favour of Crossabeg-Ballymurn.
However, St. Anne's dug deep to pick off four points in the final five minutes, through Andy Kennedy, Andrew Moran and O'Keeffe (two), and although Murphy split the posts again deep into injury time it came too late to affect the result.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn got off to a flying start with Mark Byrne opening the scoring from a line ball, before a sixth-minute Andrew Butler goal gave them a 1-1 to 0-1 advantage.
Oisín Foley's effort for the posts from the left wing dropped short and, after the ensuing scramble, Butler managed to force the ball over the line.
Captain Pádraig Foley contributed a mighty point from distance, but St. Anne's were back on level terms by the 19th minute, with McGovern opening their account and sharpshooter Mark Furlong adding five points, with four coming from frees.
The boys in blue then struck a major blow as Liam Rochford won possession and fed McGovern, who arrowed a clinical shot to the corner of the net.
Andy Kennedy and Furlong (free) added points as they threatened to pull away, but Crossabeg-Ballymurn managed to steady the ship, with four Mark Byrne frees bringing them back to within one (1-8 to 1-7).
However, they were hit with a sucker-punch four minutes into first-half injury time, when a Kenny Cloney ball into the danger zone was superbly fetched by McGovern, and he applied the finish to match, burying a shot past Noel Scallan.
Their response was good after the change of ends though, with Jack Fortune and Byrne (free) paring two points off the lead, although Andrew Moran grabbed a neat point on the turn, followed by a Furlong placed ball to wipe out those scores.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn were back breathing down their opponent's necks in the 37th minute, when Oisín Foley batted the ball to the net after Mark O'Connor had done the donkey work with a menacing run.
Seconds later a Shane O'Rourke point drew them level, and although Jonathan Fogarty and Mark Furlong replied in kind for St. Anne's in a topsy-turvy contest, Mark Byrne scored three-in-a-row, which was added to by Mark O'Connor to give Crossabeg-Ballymurn a 2-14 to 2-12 advantage with less than ten minutes remaining.
A Furlong free was then cancelled out by Byrne's brilliantly-converted sideline cut from an acute angle on the right, but seconds later they were behind.
Liam Óg McGovern again played a big part, spraying the ball across the face of goal to Mikey Fogarty, who fired to the net.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn did manage to get their noses back in front with two quickfire points in the 55th minute, but St. Anne's summoned up a stirring finish to get the job done.
They will be hoping to make it two wins from two when they take on Cloughbawn in Monamolin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, while Crossabeg-Ballymurn travel to Bellefield the following afternoon to face Faythe Harriers at 3.30 p.m.
St. Anne's: Redmond Barry; Seán Gaul, Tomás Cullen, Eoin Ryan; Aidan Rochford (capt.), Brian Kavanagh, Kenny Cloney; Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-2), Andy Kennedy (0-2); Mikey Fogarty (1-0), Mark Furlong (0-9, 7 frees, 1 '65), Andrew Moran (0-2); Liam Rochford, Jonathan Fogarty (0-1), Liam Óg McGovern (2-1). Subs. - Finn Ryan for L. Rochford (50), Liam Schokman for Kennedy (58).
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Noel Scallan; Aaron Cummins, David Kehoe, Matthew Sludds; Conor Devereux, Pádraig Foley (capt., 0-1), Joe Kelly; Jack Fortune (0-2), Ronan Devereux; Mark Byrne (0-11, 7 frees, 2 line balls), Oisín Foley (1-0), Shane O'Rourke (0-1); Andrew Butler (1-0), James White, Mark O'Connor (0-1). Sub. - Brody Murphy (0-2) for O'Rourke (46).
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).