Crossabeg-Ballymurn 3-21 Craanford 3-16
Crossabeg-Ballymurn repelled a Craanford fightback in Group B of The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, consigning the north county men to the daunting prospect of a relegation final.
When Craanford pared a six-point deficit down to one in four fruitful minutes after the half-time break they looked to have the bit between their teeth, but Crossabeg-Ballymurn kept their cool and wrested back the initiative to march into the knockout stages on a high.
Last year's beaten finalists looked like they would cruise to a bloodless victory when Barry Murphy plundered his second goal midway through the opening half to give his side an eight-point advantage (2-6 to 0-4).
His first major came with just three minutes on the clock, when a Pádraig Foley delivery into the danger zone broke kindly into his path and he gathered possession and buried the ball beyond Andrew Tighe.
The goalkeeper was retrieving the ball from his net for a second time in the 16th minute and again it was Murphy with the finish.
Oisín Foley went on a menacing run down the left wing and when he handpassed to the full-forward he gobbled up the chance, finishing with aplomb.
Pádraig Foley landed a couple of long-range placed balls, while Oisín Foley, Eoghan Kehoe and Niall Murphy also kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Wexford District side.
Craanford were mostly reliant on the free-taking abilities of Ollie Doran, although James Smyth, Ger Lyons and Eoin Doyle did chip in with nice points to keep them just about in touch at half-time (2-10 to 0-10).
They really caught Crossabeg-Ballymurn cold on the resumption though, rattling the net just ten seconds after the re-start. Ollie Doran burst forward with purpose from the throw-in and handpassed to Matthew Nolan, who made no mistake.
Nolan and Doran both split the posts to get Craanford back to within the minimum, but that was as good as it got for them as Crossabeg-Ballymurn found another gear.
And when substitute Sam Kelly raised the green flag in the 43rd minute, they were seven points to the good again.
The influential Oisín Foley was again involved, teeing up Kelly, who waltzed past a defender and buried the ball past Tighe to put them 3-14 to 1-13 ahead.
Craanford weren't going to go down without a fight though, and they went straight down the other end and scored a goal.
Jim Kenny picked out Matthew Nolan, and when the captain's effort was saved by Mark Dempsey, James Smyth was quickest to react to bat the ball over the goal-line.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn put down the foot again to restore their seven-point advantage and, although Craanford's Niall Berney blasted to the net after a Matthew Nolan effort had been blocked in the 58th minute, they never looked like being able to bridge the gap any further.
Next up for Crossabeg-Ballymurn is a meeting with St. James' in the last eight, while Craanford will take on Monageer-Boolavogue in a battle to preserve their Intermediate status.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Mark Dempsey (capt.); Matthew Sludds, Bill Eviston, Alan Byrne; Conor Devereux (0-1), Pádraig Foley (0-4, 2 frees), Ronan Devereux; Niall Murphy (0-8, 4 frees, 1 '65), Declan Byrne; Shane O'Rourke, Eoghan Kehoe (0-2), Oisín Foley (0-4); David Jackman, Barry Murphy (2-0), Tony Murphy. Subs. - Sam Kelly (1-1) for Jackman (29), Paddy Devereux for Byrne (HT), Seamus Carroll (0-1) for Sludds (50), Josh Whitehead for O'Rourke (60).
Craanford: Andrew Tighe; Joe Berney, Pat Kenny, Michael Sinnott; William Conroy, Michael Lyons, Eoin Doyle (0-1); Jim Kenny, Ollie Doran (0-8, 7 frees); James Smyth (1-2), Niall Berney (1-0), Michael O'Loughlin (0-2); Ger Lyons (0-1), Matthew Nolan (capt., 1-1), Des Kavanagh. Sub. - John Fleming for Lyons (44).
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).