An improved second-half showing at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening saw Dunboyne overcome Donaghmore-Ashbourne to top the hoganstand.com SFC Group B.
Dunboyne ........................... 1-11
Donaghmore-Ashbourne ....... 1-8
Responding well to a shock loss to St Patrick's in the previous round and a mediocre first-half showing here, Conor O'Donoghue's men stepped up to outscore Donaghmore-Ashbourne by 1-6 to 0-3 in the final 30 minutes.
It leaves Dunboyne sitting at the summit of the table and the direct route to the last eight. Meanwhile, Donaghmore-Ashbourne face a preliminary quarter-final against the third side in Group C. Summerhill's second spot was confirmed by their big win over St Patrick's.
The manner in which Dunboyne dug out the win should give them confidence going forward. Time will tell what Donaghmore-Ashbourne have learned from this setback.
When Bryan Menton fired over a magnificent point at the town end within 15 seconds of resumption, Donaghmore-Ashbourne led by 1-6 to 0-5.
Dunboyne quickly doubled their tally to lead by 1-7 to 1-6 after 42 minutes. Sub Shane Comiskey fired home the goal when placed by the impressive Michael Dunne.
The Dunboyne full-forward's work rate had a major bearing on the outcome. He was a tad fortunate to escape a black card in the 48th minute (he got yellow) for a foul on Andew Tormey. Donaghmore-Ashbourne's Cathal Field picked up a black card for a similar foul in the first-half.
In hindsight neither incident had a major bearing on the outcome. Cathal Finn's 44th minute point made it 1-8 to 1-7 and Dunboyne remained in front to the end.
Donaghmore-Ashbourne's next score came from a Michael Deegan free in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the game. An earlier Deegan free was the sole other second-half score for the east county side.
Robert McCarthy made a big impression for the winners with six points (three from play). Four of those scores came in the second-half, including Dunboyne final two scores, both from play.
The experienced David Gallagher grew in stature around the midfield area as time wore on, allowing his side the space to increase their lead as the final quarter progressed.
After 40 minutes there were as many wides as scores, 14 of each. Dunboyne were 0-7 to 1-6 in arrears at that stage. They doubled their account in the final third of a game that wasn't helped by the greasy conditions after the rain.
The early stages were tepid or cagey depending on your point of view. Both sides had spells in front with the lead changing hands three times.
Donaghmore-Ashbourne's Cathal Field posted two points from play before departing on a black card in the 23rd minute.
The scores were tied three times in the opening half. Midway through the half Andrew Tormey was well off target with a goal attempt when the scores were level at 0-2-each.
Points from David Morgan and Dylan Brady made it 0-4 to 0-2 to Donaghmore-Ashbourne by the 19th minute.
Dunboyne responded with three points on the spin with Robert McCarthy getting the sequence going with a left-footed free from under the shadow of the stand.
Michael Dunne displayed his ability to gain and retain possession before sending over the leveling score. A foul on Dunne led to a free which Donal Lenihan pointed in the 26th minute and the board read 0-5 to 0-4.
Donaghmore-Ashbourne finished with a flourish with Brady doubling their account. His well-worked second point was followed by a stoppage time goal set up by a quick-thinking Shane Melia.
After the scores were tied four times in the first-half, it was 1-5 to 0-5 at the break. Things looked good for Donaghmore-Ashbourne. Michael Deegan's 44th minute pointed free levelled matters for the fifth and final time.
Dunboyne - Johnny O'Connor; Jordan McLoughlin, Johnny Meehan, Gavin McCoy; Craig Lowndes, Shane McEntee, Seamus Lavin; David Gallagher, Ronan Jones; Stephen Moran (0-1), Cathal Finn (0-1), Stewart Lowndes; Robert McCarthy (0-6 3fs), Michael Dunne (0-1), Donal Lenihan (0-2, 1f). Subs - Shane Comiskey (1-0) for C Lowndes (ht), Jack Scanlon for Meehan (36), David McEntee for Dunne (60).
Donaghmore-Ashbourne - Jack Hannigan; JP Casserly, James Colgan, Sean Curran; Darragh McGovern, Shane Melia, Paul Gilligan; Bryan Menton (0-1), Conor Carey; Cathal Field (0-2), Conor Carton, Andrew Tormey; Dylan Brady (1-2), David Morgan (0-1), Michael Deegan (0-2 fs). Subs - Aidan Hughes for Field (bc 24), Ciaran Ellis for Casserly (47), Jack Giles for Gilligan (59).
Referee - Donal Smyth (Navan O'Mahonys)