The champions, who shot 21 wides, looked set to exit the race when Ballinameela’s Eoghan Walsh goaled two minutes into added time to give his side the lead for the first time. But with 10 seconds remaining wing back Andy Doyle landed the equalising point to save his side’s blushes.
Stradbally were dominant throughout but their finishing was appalling. Their 0-3 to 0-1 interval lead was poor reward for their efforts and the pattern continued on the restart.
Michael Brick Walsh, operating at full forward, stretched their advantage with a fine point on 34 minutes and they were 0-6 to 0-1 clear in the final quarter.
Then came the Ballinameela fightback. Points by Jim Curran and a Eoghan Walsh brace narrowed the gap before Walsh raced onto a lengthy delivery and fisted the ball past goalkeeper Oliver Costelloe for the game’s only goal. Astonishingly the underdogs were in front, but Stradbally’s Doyle held his nerve with that late, late, equaliser.
Scorers for Stradbally: S. Ahearne (0-3, frees); S. Cunningham (0-2); G. Power, M. Walsh, A. Doyle (0-1) each.
Scorers for Ballinameela: E. Walsh (1-3,0-2 frees); B. Phelan, J. Curran(0-1) each.
O. Costelloe; E. Cummins, S. Lannon, T. Costelloe; T. Grey, E. Rockett, A. Doyle; M. Walsh, J. Coffey; S. Cunningham, S.Ahearne, T. Connors; P. Weldon, R. Ahearne, G. Power.
Subs: T. Curran for R. Ahearne; C. Casey for Connors.
Jas. McGrath; S. Flavin, Eamonn Walsh, Jay McGrath; T. Curran, D. Phelan, C. Radley; A. Ahearne, B. Phelan; D. Walsh, C. Buckley, C. Walsh; J. Curran, Eoghan Walsh, J. Harrington; Subs: K. Phelan for Flavin; R. McCarthy for Jay McGrath; D. O’Brien for Harrington; J. Fletcher for Buckley.
Referee: Pat Casey, Affane.