Leading by nine points at half-time, the divisional hosts seemed in cruise control, but Ardfert produced a rousing second half recovery and only for some poor shooting could well have pulled off an unlikely result.
Feale Rangers lined out without their inter-county stars Anthony Maher and Paul Galvin while Ardfert were missing six starters from the team that won the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship in February.
Both teams traded frees early, but Rangers took control midway through the half with a goal in-keeping with the scrappy nature of the opening exchanges. A long delivery by Maurice Corridan wasn’t dealt with by the Ardfert defence and Padraig Quille pounced to force the ball past goalkeeper Nicky O’Sullivan from close range. However, Ardfert were rocked by two goals in three minutes before the break to seemingly put this game to bed.
The first came from the penalty spot after the dangerous Quille was upended and Cox slotted home the resultant penalty.
Feale Rangers added their third goal in first half stoppage time when the excellent Brian Maguire netted after intercepting a pass to leave to score 3-4 to 0-4 at the interval.
However Ardfert came out reinvigorated at the start of the second half as they began to completely dominate all areas. Inspired by midfield dominance and the outstanding John Egan the club side reeled off 1-4 without reply, including a cracking goal from Brandon Barrett.
Maurice Corridan, who was Feale Rangers’ best player in the second half, hit a crucial score from distance midway through the half to stem the flow but Ardfert were not lying down and that man Egan responded with two more efforts from play and the divisional side were suddenly vulnerable. It was all Ardfert at this stage but poor shooting left them down badly and such profligacy was to come back to haunt them as Feale Rangers finished the stronger to advance.
C. Cox (1-3, 1-0 pen, 2 frees), P. Quille (1-1), B. Maguire (1-1), S. Stack, D. Leahy, M. Corridan, P. Corridan (0-1 each)
J. Egan (0-5, 2 frees), B. Barrett (1-1), P. Carroll (0-2), S. Griffin, M. Ferris, D. Griffin (0-1 each)
B. Galvin (Moyvane); Seán T. Dillon (St. Senan’s), J. McGuire (Listowel), B. Guiney (Listowel); S. Stack (Moyvane), P. Corridan (Finuge), Paudie Galvin (Finuge); B. McGuire (Listowel), D. Somers (St. Senan’s); M. Corridan (Finuge), K. Lucy (Duagh), R. Hanley (Listowel); N. O’Connor (Duagh), C. Cox (Listowel), P. Quille (St. Senan’s).
D. Leahy (Listowel) for Quille (27); P. Quille for Guiney (half-time), J. Browne (St. Senan’s) for Hanley (51).
N. O’Sullivan; N. Clifford, R. Horgan, D. Dineen; M. Moloney, D. Collins, I. Courtney; J. Wallace, K. Shanahan; D. Griffin, P. Carroll, B. Barrett; S. Griffin, M. Ferris, J. Egan.
S. Dowling for Carroll (55); B. O’Regan for Ferris (58).
J. Lynch (Ballymacelligott)