This one will sting in Knockmore - they only managed two points in the second half and had a two man advantage for a good six minutes of the last half hour and failed to make it count as a final quarter surge from Ballina Stephenites saw them take the win and top place in the group.
It might not have been high scoring and at times it was frustrating to watch as both sides made numerous unforced errors, but it was honestly fought by both sides and had a finish to remember.
Three minutes into the second half Knockmore were leading by four points and were two men to the good with Ballina having a duo in the sin bin - but they failed to take advantage of their superior numbers and only managed to add on a single point that run, which Ballina equaled after a serious rearguard effort.
That left Knockmore leading 0-11 to 1-5 at the second water break and it all to play for down the home stretch and it was men in green and red who drove on strongest in the final quarter with the likes of Mikey Murray, Padraig O’Hora and Ciaran Tracey really stepping up.
Knockmore struck first after the final restart - but they were hit for five unanswered points by Ballina in the final ten minutes. Ciaran Tracey who came in as a second half sub slotted over a free. Mikey Murray caught a mark 40 meters out and showed great confidence to drive it over the bar, then Padraig O’Hora was on the end of a move that involved Murray and Tracey to put just one between the teams with five minutes to go. The game was levelled by a fine effort from David Tighe and a minute later Murray struck what looked an improbable winner only a few minutes earlier to send Ballina into the last eight at the top of the group.
Pearse Ruttledge got the first score of the day not long after the strains of the national anthem were still drifting off somewhere over the Deel River. Ballina squared it up through a Sean Regan effort not long after.
The Stephenites went into the lead for the second last time in the game on the five minute mark when Evan Regan slotted over a free kick.
Knockmore began to turn the wheel in their favour with Aidan Orme, Pearse Ruttledege and a brace of points from Peter Naughton putting them into a 0-5 to 0-3 lead at the water break with Evan Regan pointing in response for Ballina.
That lead was stretched out to three points through a Connell Dempsey point on the 19 minute mark - but a minute later Ballina had the ball in the back of the net.
A effort for a point dropped short and Colm Reape who was otherwise excellent for Knockmore was caught out by the flight of the ball and the run of Evan Regan who managed to nip in and win the ball ahead of him and knock it down before finishing to the net.
That didn’t throw the Knockmore game plan off track though and they tagged on four more points before the break Peter Naughton hit two, with Orme and Darren McHale also raising the white flag with Regan pointing in response for the Stephenites to leave Knockmore leading 0-10 to 1-4 at the short whistle.
The also went in at the break with an extra man with Mikey Murray getting sent to the bin and three minutes into the second half he was joined there by Thomas Doherty - it looked like it was game over from then on, but you’d have been wrong to think so.
Ballina Stephenties: E Regan (1-4, 3f ); M Murray (0-2, 1m ), C Tracey (0-1, 1f ), D Tighe (0-1 ), P O’Hora (0-1 ), S Regan (0-1 )
Knockmore: P Naughton (0-5, 2f ), A Orme (0-2, 1f ), P Ruttledge (0-2 ), D McHale (0-1 ), C Dempsey (0-1 ), C Reape (0-1, 1 45 )
Balina Stephenites: D Clarke; S Mullins, C Hunt, T Doherty; R Tighe, P O’Hora, D Tighe; J Irwin, M Murray; L Doherty, K Tighe, S Regan; C McStay, E Regan, S Leonard Subs: F Irwin, C Tracey, D O’Mahony, K Newell
Knockmore: C Reape; N Armstrong, D McHale, A Stadler; S Holmes, K King, C Flynn; K McLoughlin, S McHale; P Ruttledge, D McHale, C Dempsey; P Naughton, A Orme, K Ruttledge. Subs: C Hopkins