(After extra time)
Eamon McEvoy's late, late free saved Ballinagh a replay against Cootehill as the two sides finished all square after extra time in Saturday night's senior championship play-off at Kingspan Breffni.
In what was hands down the best game of this year's championship to date, Cootehill managed to surrender a nine-point lead after registering three goals in the opening 12 minutes but very nearly ended up winning the game anyway after Dermie Connolly's 75th minute strike looked to have gotten them over the line.
Ollie Fay's men seized their opportunity in the added minutes of extra time however, capitalising on a poor kick-out from their counterparts and earning a free for McEvoy to send over that will now likely a rematch between the teams set the be scheduled for the middle of next week with the quarter-finals down for decision next weekend.
Jamie Smith handed Cootehill the perfect start in this splendid contest after just 45 seconds, burying in the rebound of Caoimhin Carney's snap shot for all three points, and the Celts would keep the umpire's arm busy over the ensuing 11 minutes.
Opposing sharpshooters Enda Hessin and Niall McDermott both got off the mark inside the opening four minutes, with Cavan forward McDermott landing his second two minutes after from a free, suggesting that there was plenty to come on the night from the talented pair.
McDermott's second looked to have Ballinagh settled in after such a nightmare start but disaster hit them again in the eighth minute when Hessin's point effort dropped over the head of 'keeper Declan Beard, who was put under excellent pressure from Tom Hayes.
Damien Reilly pulled back a point for his side at the far end but it truly went from bad to worse for Fay's charges when Hayes paved a path through their centre and sent a cool finish past Beard for the Celts' third goal in the space of 12 minutes
Points from Hessin and Hayes - the second a brilliant individual effort at full-forward which left marker Killian McBride and Padraic O'Reilly swatting at the former Cavan U21 star - had the scoreboard reading 3-3 to 0-3 in Paddy Kelly's men's favour with 17 minutes played.
McDermott (free) and Kevin Smith grabbed sorely needed scores for the trailers, prior to Hessin firing over a gem from beyond 45 metres, and back-to-back points from David Finnegan kept the men in saffron very much in contention.
A brilliant burst forward from Cormac Timoney saw him register his first point in the senior championship as the Cavan minor star went on to make a fine debut in this competition.
Hessin (2, 1 a free) and McDermott (free) closed the half at 3-6 to 0-10 - a score-line Ballinagh certainly would have taken after shipping three goals in the opening quarter.
The 2013 champions raced out of the traps for the second-half, kicking points via McDermott and Finnegan inside the first 60 seconds of the restart, and they'd certainly be glad to see the back of Hessin once he picked up a black card on 33 minutes.
A brace of points from John McCutcheon did away with his counterparts' good work at the start of the second-half, but over the next 15 minutes it was the game chasers that took control, reeling off six unanswered points to remarkably move in front for the first time on the night.
Smith (free), Thomas Moore and Timoney got them rolling, before McDermott (free) and Moore rifled over one each to level by the 52nd minute and the lead point shot over by Gavin Smith would be worth the wait for the Ballinagh contingent as a mighty roar followed it.
However, Fay's side would only hold that advantage momentarily as sub Shane Sexton left things all square. Time ran out for a potential match winner but the 3-9 to 0-18 full-time score meant two extra 10-minute periods.
It was Ballinagh that were looking the more likely outfit in the early stages of extra time, as a McDermott free and a fine effort from Finnegan put their opponents on the back foot again.
Sexton raised a white flag in response, leaving one in it at the short break, and within three minutes of the resumption Cootehill would rattle their opponents net for the fourth and final time. This time sub Connolly did the honours with his fist after a slick dish off presented him with the opportunity for max profit.
It got worse for Ballinagh too, losing corner-back Killian McBride to a red card with five minutes to go, but they still managed to dig their deepest at the absolute death, earning a free which McEvoy converted to ensure these sides would have to meet again in the coming days.
Ballinagh: Declan Beard; Aaron O'Reilly, Fergus Bogue, Killian McBride; Gavin Smith (0-1), Cormac Timoney (0-3), Damien Reilly (0-1); Padraic O'Reilly, Eamon McEvoy (0-1, 1f); David Finnegan (0-4), Kevin Smith (0-2, 1f), Paddy O'Brien; Shane Finnegan, Niall McDermott (0-7, 5f), Thomas Moore (0-3). Subs: Niall O'Reilly for A O'Reilly, Sean Keating for P O'Brien, Enda Brady for E McEvoy, Peter Donohoe for D Reilly, McEvoy for Keating, O'Brien for N McDermott (inj).
Cootehill: Ryan Carroll; Sean O'Connor, Barry McGahan, Gerard Argue; Stevie O'Connor, John Carney, Dean Connolly; Joshua Hayes, John McCutcheon (0-2); Ciaran Fox, Enda Hessin (1-5, 1f), Damien Sherlock, Caoimhin Carney, Tom Hayes (1-1), Jamie Smith (1-0). Subs: Shane Sexton (0-2) for E Hessin (BC), Dermie Connolly (1-0) for C Fox, Diarmaid Carney for B Sherlock, Mark Mullen for C Carey (BC), Glen Nulty for J Smith, Fox for J Carney (inj).
Ref: John Emo (Butlersbridge)Tweet