Mullahoran 1-12 Ballinagh 0-14
Mullahoran dug out a hard earned victory over Ballinagh last night at Kingspan Breffni Park to ensure a winning start to their senior championship campaign.
Enda O'Reilly's seven-point contribution proved immense for the winners after having trailed their near neighbours for more than three quarters of this game, with their first lead gained in the 54th minute via midfielder Kevin Fitzsimons.
That advantage would not be relinquished in the remaining 11 minutes (there were five minutes of injury-time added) either, as Balllinagh - led from the front by Eamonn McEvoy (0-8) - were made to rue their mistakes late on, along with a first-half lapse which led to Paddy Brady's 25th minute goal.
Mickey Harkins' team had made much the better start in this championship opener through Terry Smith, David Finnegan and McEvoy (free) sending over unanswered points which had them three to the good inside seven minutes.
Fionnan O'Reilly got the Dreadnoughts off the mark by the ninth minute with a close range free but their opponents were very much on top, as McEvoy fired over from distance to re-establish the three-point lead for the Saffrons, which could have been doubled had Dominic Crudden not denied Sean Keating with a fine save in the Mullahoran goal.
McEvoy expertly converted the resultant '45' instead, with Enda O'Reilly (free) and Paul Brady contributing points prior to some patient build-up play from the 2013 champions leading to a Killian McBride lofting over one in the 22nd minute.
It took Mullahoran all of three minutes to erase their opponents' good work though, thanks to a goal orchestrated by Enda O'Reilly and well-finished by midfielder and ex-county Paddy Brady.
In a terrific response, Ballinagh posted the next three scores over the ensuing five minutes via McEvoy and Thomas Moore (2) before Enda O'Reilly concluded the first-half with his second free, which left it at 0-9 to 1-4.
The former Cavan U21 star picked up where he left off at the start of the second-half by sending over another placed ball but McEvoy was more than equal to him at the far end.
The two marksmen traded frees again before the Killydoon outfit eventually made some headway thanks to points from Fitzsimons and wing back Michael Brady.
Two more McEvoy frees looked to have Harkins' men in control of things entering the last quarter but, in typical fashion, Mullahoran proceeded to time their finish to perfection as Enda O'Reilly backed up a free with a levelling score from play before sending Fitzsimons through with a crisp pass for the lead point with minutes of regulation remaining.
It left Ballinagh hunting for an equaliser of their own which never came, as Killian Brady and Seanie Smith stood tall at the back for the Longford border side.
Instead marksman O'Reilly sealed the win in injury-time for Mullahoran whom now face high-flying Ramor United in the next round, while Ballinagh take on Jim Hyland's Denn side.
Mullahoran: Dominic Crudden; Seanie Smith, Killian Brady, Daniel O'Reilly; Matthew Hynes, Chris Prior, Michael Brady (0-1); Kevin Fitzsimons (0-2), Paddy Brady (1-0); Daniel Smith, Enda O'Reilly (0-7, 6f), Sean McKeogh; Raymond Lynch, Paul Brady (0-1), Fionnan O'Reilly (0-1, 1f). Subs: Tadgh McGahern for S McKeogh (39), Philip Brady for D Smith (40), Tomas Nannery for F O'Reilly (54), Damien McArdle for Paddy Brady (60).
Ballinagh: Declan Beard; Killian McBride (0-1), Pat Carroll, Fergus Bogue; Philip Bogue, Terry Smith (0-1), Gavin Smith; Padraic O'Reilly, David Finnegan (0-1); Kevin Smith, Thomas Moore (0-3, 1f), Niall O'Reilly; Shane Finnegan, Sean Keating, Eamon McEvoy (0-8, 6f, 1 45). Subs: Conor Smith for T Smith (47mins), Ciaran Brady for S Finnegan (54), Niall McDermott for S Keating (58), S Keating for C Brady (60, inj).
Ref: Martin Sexton (Cavan Gaels)