by Shane Corrigan
at Kingspan Breffni Park
Kingscourt Stars survived a late scare from Castlerahan this afternoon to claim their 11th Cavan senior football championship title after their 10th outing in the competition.
Before 5,284 spectators at Kingspan Breffni Park, the Stars shone brightest in glorious autumn conditions during a 10-minute second-half spell which saw them do away with their deficit and move into a lead they'd never surrender despite their opponents' best efforts.
A 52nd minute goal from 'Man of the Match' Philip Tinnelly proved the decisive score in the end but ultimately it was the width of a post that separated these two teams, with Paul Smith's last gasp effort hitting the upright before falling wide just prior to the final whistle.
Castlerahan had led by three at half-time thanks to a late first-half rally and they looked to be still in control during the first 10 minutes of the resumption before Niall Lynch's team finally rose to the big occasion, hitting 1-4 to devastate the opposition.
That left the men from Ballyjamesduff playing catch up from there on and their late endeavours to secure a draw ultimately ended in heartbreak, as Kingscourt held on for their first triumph in this competition since 2010.
Cian Mackey's 40-metre free gave Castlerahan the first lead inside four minutes as proceedings were cagey for much of the opening quarter.
Christy McGowan sent over a gem from the right wing to bring Kingscourt level a minute later but it was their opponents that were threatening more as Oisin O'Connell pointed to put them back in front. The livewire corner-forward could well have had a goal had Paul Smith not overcooked a pass to him on the edge of the square and when Padraic Faulkner made a vital interception on Mackey, the Stars avoided disaster again.
Stray passes and missed chances saw 10 minutes of scoreless play ensue before Peter Corrigan stroked over his first at full-forward to level the sides, as Kingscourt looked to make some headway.
The remainder of the half belonged to the Ballyjamesduff men though and they were ignited once midfielder Cormac Daly crossed the 45 and smashed over a gem. Mackey, whose deadly threat had been thwarted well by Noel McIntyre over the hour, backed that up with a free and once the Cavan star's lay off put Enda Flanagan through it was the men in maroon that would have a 0-5 to 0-2 lead to work with for the second-half.
Kingscourt had lost injured goalkeeper James Farrelly right on the eve of half-time and they'd have to replace Leitrim native McGowan with Philly Smith three minutes into the restart.
Barry Reilly's first free brought the Stars back within two ahead of Mackey locating Smith with a wonderful cross-field pass which saw the Cavan defender slot over.
Corrigan and Daly exchanged fine scores to keep the difference at two but when the former found the time and space to rifle over his third against a stingy Castlerahan defence it was clear that the Meath border men were approaching another gear.
Starting with Corrigan's 41st minute score they ran up four unanswered points to gain their first lead, with sub Cian McArdle driving on their momentum after grabbing the rebound of an initial effort which came back off the upright and tapping over.
Reilly curled over a perfectly struck 45 two minutes later and when Tinnelly got on the end of a sweeping move which caught out Castlerahan's backs it saw the lads donned in blue 0-8 to 0-7 in front with 12 minutes to go.
Some patient build up play at the other end off the back of great work by Ronan Flanagan would afford his brother Enda the time and space to dissect the posts and stem the tide a bit.
That was washed away in the next attack however, as Michael Reilly's side were caught out in their full-back line when Shane Grey found a gap and crossed to Tinnelly, who rose highest to palm the ball into Jamie Leahy's net.
The last minutes of regulation saw Cian McEnroe and Mackey land frees to outweigh a second Reilly 45, keeping the difference at two as the game drew towards a high octane ending.
Ronan Flanagan steadied himself for a point which had Castlerahan halfway towards level and a replay looked secure when they gathered the next kick-out and eventually drew out a brick in Kingscourt's wall for Smith to shoot but the defender's effort clipped off the wrong side of the post and the Stars held on.
Kingscourt: James Farrelly; Rory Sheridan, Padraic Faulkner, Shane Grey; Barry Tully, Alan Clarke, Noel McIntyre; Barry Reilly (0-3, 2 45s, 1f), Kieran Gorman; Philip Tinnelly (1-1), Peter Corrigan (0-3), Keith McCabe; Darragh Gunne, Christy McGowan (0-1), Ryan Carey. Subs: Gavin Sheenan for J Farrelly (29mins, inj), Philly Smith for C McGowan (33, inj), Cian McArdle (0-1) for D Gunne (40), Mark McGovern for K McCabe (54), Tomas Malone for C Gorman (57), Thomas Wakely for S Grey (60, BC).
Castlerahan: Jamie Leahy; Stephen Cooney, Cormac Daly (0-2), Paul Smith (0-1); Enda O'Connell, Fergal Reilly, Caolan McBreen; Alan Cusack, Brian Coleman; Ronan Flanagan (0-1), Cian Mackey (0-3, 3f), Daniel Lynch; Cian McEnroe (0-1, 1f), Enda Flanagan (0-2), Oisin O'Connell (0-1). Subs: Sean Brady for C McBreen (51mins), Fergal Flanagan for C McEnroe (57).
Ref: Noel Mooney (Cavan Gaels)