Two well-timed goals helped get Castlerahan back on track in the senior championship tonight at the expense of Crosserlough.
Cian Mackey (penalty) and Oisin O'Connell fired in the all-important majors in each half, creating a margin that would never be breached by their Kilnaleck counterparts after an early second-half strike from Raymond Lynch looked to have them back in contention.
The winners were that bit sharper up front though, making a marked improvement on their opening round display against Killeshandra which saw them trounced by four goals. Mackey (1-4) and Cian McEnroe (0-6) led the line brilliantly for them, while Paul Smith, Caolan McBreen and Ronan Flanagan put in big minutes in defence for the Ballyjamesduff men.
As for Crosserlough, their hopes of a crusade to the Oliver Plunkett Cup will have to wait another year, with their second defeat in as many weeks now consigning them to a dreaded relegation battle.
The first-half was real end-to-end stuff, with Barry McKiernan, scorer of 0-5, opening the proceedings for Seamus Donohoe's team after two minutes and centre-forward Adrian Smith doubling up the advantage in the very next attack.
Deadly duo McEnroe and Mackey had that lead done away within the space of a minute and things stayed even for the next 10 minutes or so, with the sides drawing each other level on four separate occasions.
McKiernan's first free of the evening was cancelled out by the lively McBreen, who sped away at the other end and lashed over with the chance of the green flag on. McEnroe nudged Castlerahan into their first lead with a 12th minute free and he added another four minutes later to keep them ahead after McKiernan's third of the evening.
Former county senior Johnny Crowe endeavoured for the Kilnaleck side's fifth, breaking a few tackles before sending Smith away in space and the centre-forward did the rest to raise the white flag. Crosserlough fetched the next kick-out and terrific work from Enda Gaffney afforded Pierce Smith the time and space to steer his side back in front.
Michael Reilly's men landed stiffer blows in the latter stages of the half though, with the reliable McEnroe sailing two more frees, the second after brave work from Paul Smith, who raced through and shipped a heavy challenge for the ref's whistle.
Disaster struck for Crosserlough three minutes from the interval then, as some quick thinking from Mackey found an unmarked O'Connell, who was impeded by Shane McManus as he pulled the trigger and Kieran McCarville signalled horizontal arms for the penalty, with no protests.
Mackey tucked away the spot kick expertly but, to their credit, Crosserlough recovered well before half-time with points from Raymond Lynch and Eoin Cusack, reducing their arrears to two (1-7 to 0-8) for the break.
Lynch jinked his way through for a goal after six minutes of the restart, having been slipped away by McKiernan, but that was about as good as it got for the black and ambers as two Mackey frees had them behind again before O'Connell's brilliant strike on the fourth quarter mark. Castlerahan's number 15 put his head down and didn't look up until he followed through with a rocket shot which left Ciaran Galligan in the Crosserlough goal with no chance.
A sweet score from Mackey and three more overs via sub Killian McEnroe, Cian McEnroe (free) and Smith left Seamus Donohoe's men with a mountain to climb in the final 10 minutes and they simply couldn't scale it despite the best efforts of Stephen Smith and McManus to cut into the maroons' lead.
Two late McKiernan points and a Stephen Smith goal effort being cleared off the line by Paul Smith weren't going to cut it for Crosserlough either, as their opponents held on for a deserved victory to move into the next round.
Castlerahan: Jamie Leahy; Stephen Cooney, Brian Coleman, Killian McEnroe (0-1); Enda O'Connell, Caolan McBreen (0-1), Fergal Reilly; Fergal Flanagan, Barry Cusack; Paul Smith (0-2), Cian Mackey (1-4, 2f, 1 pen), Cian McEnroe (0-6, 5f); Daniel Lynch, Ronan Flanagan, Oisin O'Connell (1-0). Subs: Stephen Foran for B Coleman (HT), Shane Reilly for S Foran (39mins, inj), Podge McGahern for F Flanagan (45), Fiachra Sweeny for S Reilly (50), Jamie McGrath for D Lynch (59).
Crosserlough: Ciaran Galligan; Paddy O'Reilly, Colin Lynch, Jarlath O'Reilly; Shane McManus (0-1), Declan McCabe, Kevin Smith; Jonathan Crowe, James McEvoy; Pierce Smith (0-1), Adrian Smith (0-2), Eoin Cusack (0-1); Barry McKiernan (0-5, 1f), Enda Gaffney, Raymond Lynch (1-1). Subs: Mark Lynch for J O'Reilly (14mins, inj), Conor Rehill for K Smith (23), Darren Gaffney (0-1) for E Gaffney (40), Stephen Smith (0-1) for E Cusack (52), Thomas Keaney for J McEvoy (56).
Ref: Kieran McCarville (Cootehill Celtic)