The Ballintubber dream of a three-in-a-row was rudely dispatched by a hungry and hard working Knockmore side, who mixed teak tough defending with attacking flair in spades in MacHale Park on Saturday evening.
The north Mayo men went into the game as underdogs, but underdogs everyone knew had a serious bite in them and once they sunk their teeth into the challenge they didn’t let go until the final whistle.
They swarmed the Ballintubber attack - getting numerous hands in to deflect the ball away, stood tall and held up their men rather than dive in and give away silly fouls they knew would be punished and when the chances came up front they took the vital ones and to steer themselves into next weekends semi-finals.
Knockmore hit the ground running quickly and were two points to the good inside the opening two minutes with Darren McHale and Peter Naughton hitting scores before Cillian O’Connor got Ballintubber moving on five minutes.
The game was levelled up two minutes later through a fine Jason Gibbons score - from the kick-out Knockmore almost got in for a goal with Orme breaking the cover but his effort was kept out by Brendan Walsh.
Peter Naughton edged his side in front again not long after from a free from close range, but that was quickly cancelled out by a long range effort from Bryan Walsh.
Ballintubber looked like they would get in for a goal when Cillian O’Connor rolled his man to create space cutting in from the right, but his effort was too central and Colm Reape handled his effort well and kept it out and the sides went to the first water break level.
The defending champions hit the front for the first time just after the restart when Jason Gibbons twisted and turned to find an inch of space to fire over the bar - but Knockmore kept coming and Naughton levelled it up again from a free.
The fist major turning point of the game arrived in style when Connell Dempsey found Aiden Orme and he moved the ball on quickly to Darren McHale who made no mistake firing the ball to the net to put his side three clear 22 minutes in.
The Ballintubber charge was dealt another blow not long after when Alan Dillon was forced out of the action through injury and with it - went years of guile and experience in tight games.
But his side showed why they were champions for the past two years and reeled off three points on the bounce over three minutes with a Cillian O’Connor free, an excellent Keelan McDonnell effort from a tight angle and a Bryan Walsh levelling the game up two minutes into injury time.
However Knockmore were to have the final say in the half with a Orme free to deservedly send his side in leading by one at the break.
It took seven minutes for the first score of the second half to come and it went to the ‘Tubber through a Cillian O’Connor free - but Knockmore responded well through points from Naughton and Orme before O’Connor replied with another free.
With the water break approaching Ballintubber looked to got a foothold in the Knockmore half of the field and it appeared that the north Mayo men would appreciate the water break to get a breather from the pressure.
However before the break could come, Knockmore broke at pace with McLouhglin finding Keith Ruttledge and he worked it on to Aiden Orme who was able to keep the move going into the path of McHale who made no mistake and finished off his second goal to send his side in leading 2-7 to 0-9 at three quarter mark.
It was there for Knockmore now and all they had to do was see out the final 13 or so minutes left on the clock and they did that in style kicking five points down the home stretch to Ballintubber three - looking rock solid as they did and putting out a serious message that they are back and hungry for the title.
Ballintubber: C O’Connor (0-5, 5f ); J Gibbons (0-2 ), B Walsh (0-2 ), K McDonnell (0-1 ), S O’Malley (0-1 ), C Gavin (0-1 )
Knockmore: D McHale (2-2 ), P Naughton (0-5, 2f, 1m ), A Orme (0-3, 1f ), K McLoughlin (0-1 )
Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, J Geraghty, M Kelly; D Coleman, M Plunkett, B Murphy; J Gibbons, D O’Connor; C Gavin, A Dillon, B Walsh; J Finnerty, C O’Connor, S O’Malley. Subs: K McDonnell for A Dillon; N Geraghty for J Finnerty; H Geraghty for J Geraghty; R Geraghty for B Walsh; A Plunkett for D O’Connor
Knockmore: C Reape; S Holmes, D McHale, A Stadler; N Armstron, K King, C Flynn; K McLoughlin, S McHale; P Ruttledge, D McHale, C Dempsey; P Naughton, A Orme, K Ruttledge. Subs: S Ruttledge for K Ruttledge (BS ); K Lanagan for P Ruttledge; M Parke for N Armstrong; C Hopkins for K Ruttledge; S Ruttledge for C Dempsey.