by Shane Corrigan
at St Aidan's Park
Michael Brady's late, late point saw Ballyhaise break Belturbet hearts tonight to reach their third intermediate championship final in four years.
In what was a cracking contest in Bawnboy, the Ballyhaise substitute's 64th minute contribution was what stood between the sides when all was said and done after Belturbet had clawed their way back from a five-point deficit.
Ciaran O'Malley's charges led by two at half-time and had the score board reading 0-12 to 0-7 with 12 minutes remaining thanks to the points of Kevin Tierney (3), Padraig Moore and Colm Reilly which looked to have their berth in next month's final against Shercock sealed.
The Rories never threw in the towel though and ensured a thrilling finish for the big crowd in attendance via the points of Stuart Dunne and Donal McDonald which drew the game level two minutes into injury-time prior to Brady coming up trumps at the other end right at the death.
Belturbet drew first blood in this replay through their veteran Eoin McGuigan, who was stationed at full-forward, collecting Enda Henry's pass and splitting the posts from close range three minutes in.
It was Tierney that gave the 2015 winners the perfect response though, lashing over a pair of points off his trusted left boot in the space of a minute as his side took their first lead on six minutes.
Niall Lawlor slipped McGuigan through for his second a minute later and while Moore's first soon arrived, after intercepting Danny Anscombe's attempted clearance, Padraig Dolan's side would be back in the ascendancy soon after the quarter hour mark.
A perfectly stroked free by Henry from all of 45 metres was backed up by Shane Fitzpatrick cutting through and making it 0-4 to 0-3 to the maroons with 17 minutes on the clock.
Moore got set-up by centre-back Shane Briody for his second to move the village side back in front, after Sean McCormack's long range effort had dropped between the posts.
Henry's second free of the night drew Belturbet level but the town side should have had a goal in the 23rd minute. Some slick interchange down the right flank saw possession eventually break to an unmarked McGuigan, who had his shot quickly smothered by the ever alert Gary O'Rourke in the Ballyhaise goal.
It was a let off for the Annalee Park outfit which finished out the half in splendid fashion by hitting Moore twice with two perfect passes and their full-forward launched over from the guts of 40 metres on each occasion, leaving it at 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval.
David Brady earned a free for Tierney to pop over early in the restart, opening up a three-point gap for the first time, as the Rories introduced Sean Og Lawlor after seven minutes in a bid to sharpen up their attack.
Two Henry frees outweighed another from Tierney but the margin still stood at three heading for the final quarter after Moore's goal-bound shot was tipped over by Anscombe.
Ballyhaise looked largely in control at that stage, with Marcus Duffy and captain Briody driving them on from the back and McCormack, who was outstanding for them the last day, having another fine outing here.
Tierney's third free made it a four-point game and when experienced corner-forward Reilly sent over, after selling a sublime dummy to lose his man, the competition's favourites looked to be on their way with 48 minutes played.
Belturbet had other ideas though with Mark Teevan cancelling out Reilly's score in the very next minute prior to Stuart Dunne pulling off an excellent block in the 52nd minute that surely prevented a certain Ballyhaise goal.
That and a brilliantly flighted free by Conall McGinley from beyond 45 metres drew some colossal inspiration for the trailers and despite McCormack coming up with another trademark point off his left, it was Belturbet that owned the majority of the late minutes with regards to scores.
A black card for Moore with four minutes left in regulation wouldn't help Ballyhaise's cause (although the full-forward was replaced by match winner Brady), as their opponents got two quick scores from Henry (free) and McGinley to leave as many points in it heading towards injury-time.
Duffy came up with a great turnover in the Ballyhaise half-back line to halt the Rories from getting three scores in as many minutes, but the chasing team's momentum simply couldn't be stopped as Dunne and substitute McDonald had this thrilling game levelled on 62 minutes.
Needless to say, it was well and truly squeaky bum time from there on out and after some patient Ballyhaise build-up play right in front of their counterparts' dug out, they slipped Brady through down the right and he backed himself brilliantly to put his club back into another intermediate decider.
Ballyhaise: Gary O'Rourke; Darren Reilly, Mark Brennan, Stephen Kane; Desmond Reilly, Shane Briody, Marcus Duffy; Conor Lyons, Sean McCormack (0-2); Martin Conaty, Kevin Tierney (0-5, 3f), Aodhagan Watters; Colm Reilly (0-1), Padraig Moore (0-5), David Brady. Subs: Michael Brady (0-1) for P Moore (BC, 57mins), Conor McEntee for A Watters (60).
Belturbet: Danny Anscombe; Shane Fitzpatrick (0-1), Mark Lawlor, Peter Shannon; Niall O'Reilly, Kevin McConnell, Conall McGinley (0-2, 1f); Damien O'Reilly, Eoin McGuigan (0-2); Stuart Dunne (0-1), Fionnan O'Reilly, Niall Lawlor; Cian Vaughan, Enda Henry (0-5, 5f), Mark Teevan (0-1). Subs: Sean Og Lawlor for C Vaughan (37mins), Donal McDonald (0-1) for E McGuigan (45), John Cahill for N Lawlor (60)
Ref: Joe McQuillan (Kill Shamrocks)