Junior 'B' may be the sixth and lowest grade of adult competition in the county, but the quality of play and level of excitement belied that reality in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Saturday when Rathnure and St. Anne's served up a thrilling contest that ended in a Permanent TSB final stalemate.
It was extremely entertaining fare as two fired-up teams really went for it before a vociferous crowd, and from a neutral viewpoint I was delighted that a second outing will be needed to decide the destination of the silverware.
Rathnure had enjoyed the perfect start with a goal on their first attack, and it looked like they might edge it when another free from the accurate Brendan Flynn left them with a 3-12 to 1-16 lead in the 57th minute.
However, the never-say-die attitude that one takes as a given from all St. Anne's teams came to the fore as they picked off two fine points from the left flank to ensure a share of the spoils.
Free-taker Jess Codd chose an opportune time to land his sole score from play, and just 17 seconds of normal time remained when a half-block on a Paddy Miskella drive was latched on to by corner-forward Kyle Kennedy who calmly picked off the equaliser.
There was still time for some late drama when Wexford's Leinster-winning captain of 2004, John O'Connor, launched a long free from inside his own half towards the dressing-room end goalposts.
However, the ball broke off a colleague and went wide, and referee Shane Quinn blew for full-time on the puck-out after playing 70 seconds of added time.
The confusion afterwards regarding the possibility of extra-time was strange, given the fact that county finals always go to replays if they are drawn on the first day, unless both teams have agreed beforehand to play it out to a finish.
And if the second outing in Bree on Saturday is as exciting and enjoyable as this fine contest, then it's a game that should whet the appetite nicely for the following day's big double-header in Innovate Wexford Park.
Rathnure needed a mere 21 seconds to rattle the net, with a long ball by Dermot Reddy causing unrest around the Anne's square before full-forward Kyle Martin got the final touch for the first of his three goals.
Brendan Flynn added a point before the excellent Dylan O'Brien caught a clearance and soloed into space to get the Wexford District champions off the mark in the second minute.
The wily Francis Simpson had a brief sight of goal only to be hooked, but he was alert to a throw-in just over 30 seconds later and fired over his side's second point.
Rathnure captain Nigel Higgins hit a high shot between the posts from a Shane Murphy assist, while his fellow vastly experienced attacker, Brendan O'Leary, stretched their advantage to 1-3 to 0-2 at the end of a very lively opening six minutes.
Simpson fed Paddy Miskella to pull back a point, but Rathnure extended their advantage with a goal of the highest quality in the ninth minute.
John O'Connor arrowed a long-range free towards the square, and Kyle Martin judged its flight to perfection and doubled the sliothar to the net (2-3 to 0-3).
St. Anne's needed to stay in touch after that blow, and their response was strong as threatening forwards Francis Simpson and Dylan O'Brien both supplied their much-needed second points.
Netminder Shane Mythen made an important double save too, while his counterpart at the other end, John Haughney, did well to deal with a dangerous delivery from Jess Codd as the play ebbed and flowed.
The third former inter-county hurler in the Rathnure attack, Seán O'Neill, made it 2-4 to 0-5 in the 19th minute, and he swiftly added a second point after Codd first converted a free.
A bright spell for St. Anne's then yielded three scores on the trot from Codd (free), Paddy Miskella and Dylan O'Brien, before Brendan Flynn earned and tapped over a free to leave Rathnure with an interval lead of 2-6 to 0-9.
David Kavanagh had spent the closing stages of the opening period as an extra half-back for the Rathangan men, but they reverted to orthodox formation on the re-start and resumed with a vengeance.
Simpson set up Miskella to make it a two-point game, and the margin was narrowed to the bare minimum when midfielder Andy Kennedy latched on to a loose clearance and returned it over the bar with interest (2-6 to 0-11).
Shane Murphy halted the momentum with a Rathnure point, but only for a very short time as their rivals hit the front in the 36th minute. Simpson was taken down by Ciarán Donnellan after winning a long ball from Andy Kennedy, and Jess Codd directed the penalty low to the right corner of the net (1-11 to 2-7).
They were only ahead for the guts of 70 seconds though, because Kyle Martin latched on to an Anthony Westnott line ball to the right of goal and hit the net for the third time as the excitement level rose another notch.
A Brendan Flynn free made it 3-8 to 1-11, but St. Anne's had no intention of collapsing as a trio of scores from Kyle Kennedy and Jess Codd (two frees) left the title up for grabs with just over twelve minutes left.
Flynn restored the Rathnure lead, only for Kyle Kennedy to get away with a Seamus Darby-style nudge on the evergreen Dave Guiney to restore parity.
Incidentally, his pen picture in the match programme was more than generous to the ex-Wexford utility player, shaving five years off his age, but he was motoring very well for a man who will celebrate his 50th birthday next March.
With every score precious at this stage, Rathnure looked to have edged their noses in front at the opportune time when a foul on Nigel Higgins was punished by free-taker Brendan Flynn (3-10 to 1-15).
Brendan O'Leary, who had moved to left corner-forward, added to their lead, and that gap of two remained after David Kavanagh became the sixth Anne's attacker to score, and Flynn responded with his last placed ball (3-12 to 1-16).
These are exciting times for the boys in blue, with both adult hurling teams contesting county finals, and the desire to stay on course for a potential dream double was clear as Jess Codd and Kyle Kennedy hit those vital late points.
Roll on next Saturday and the second instalment in Bree!
Rathnure: John Haughney; Dave Guiney, Ciarán Donnellan, Patrick O'Connor; Dermot Reddy, John O'Connor, Jamie Miller; Anthony Westnott, Shane Murphy (0-1); Brendan Flynn (0-6, 5 frees), Brendan O'Leary (0-2), Nigel Higgins (capt., 0-1); Seán O'Neill (0-2), Kyle Martin (3-0), Jason Murphy. Subs. - Domhnall McGahan for J. Murphy (49), also Ted O'Connor, Patrick Flynn, Brendan Foley, Colm Byrne, Lorcan Ryan, Kevin O'Leary, Neil Morrissey, Eoin Murphy, Darren Kirwan, Brian Lawler, Martin O'Connor, Chris O'Connor, Adam Carty, Michael O'Connor.
St. Anne's: Shane Mythen; Vincent Carroll, Niall Doyle (capt.), Jim Ryan; Barry Roche, Seamus Mythen, Paul McDonnell; Michael O'Brien, Andy Kennedy (0-1); Dylan O'Brien (0-3), Jess Codd (1-5, 0-4 frees, 1-0 pen.), Paddy Miskella (0-3); David Kavanagh (0-1), Francis Simpson (0-2), Kyle Kennedy (0-3). Subs. - Brian Kavanagh for McDonnell (HT), Fergus Whelan for M. O'Brien (60+2), also Pádraig Parle, Andrew Walsh, Philip Rawson, Conor Ryan, Roy Nunn, Patrick O'Brien, Fran Whelan, Gavin O'Brien, Michael Carroll, Gavin Howlett, Neil Roche, Ray Kelly, Karim Byrne, Kevin Redmond.
Referee: Shane Quinn (Ballygarrett).