In treacherous conditions Cortown had to call on every ounce of their renowned spirit to recover from being two points behind and reduced to 14 men midway through the second-half.
Ballinlough will look back ruefully on their first-half performance where they were outplayed and outscored by a team that looked far more determined for the heat of championship battle. Cortown raced out of the traps and lead by 0-5 to 0-1 after just nine minutes; Gordon Codd, who was among their best performers, was on target three times as they belied the slippery conditions to play some fast flowing football. With Glen Loughran and John Fagan dominant at midfield they continued to hold the upper-hand. Breen Smith followed up after a great save from Ballinlough goalkeeper Keith Mc Guinness to extend the lead, 0-6 to 0-1, after 19 minutes.
Lorcan Maguire moved to midfield for 'The Reds' and it had a steadying effect as they began to win more possession, Colm Mallen and Ken Rothwell brought them back into contention with a couple of frees to leave them trailing, 0-6 to 0-3, at the break.
The start of the second-half was almost a complete reversal to the start of the first-half; Ballinlough dominated the middle third of the field with Vinny Ryan prominent at wing forward. In a blistering 12 minute spell they kicked six points, three from Peadar Byrne, two from Colm Mallen and one from Ken Rothwell, to lead, 0-9 to 0-7. At this stage they looked rampant and although Gordon Codd narrowed the deficit with a point the signs were ominous for his team when Martin Henry was dismissed for a second yellow card.
However, they dug deep and somehow turned around what looked to be a lost cause, substitute Brian Casserly put the sides on level terms, 0-9 to 0-9, when he latched onto a loose ball and split the posts. Ballinlough were then dealt a terminal blow when chief score-getter Peadar Byrne received his marching orders after 53 minutes, following his second yellow card. Cortown sensed a victory and Ivan Coyne and Codd sent over late scores to put them two points ahead, substitute Derek Muldoon did give Ballinlough a glimmer of hope with a late point but when he failed to get the distance with a difficult free moments later, they were left dwelling on their poor first-half performance.
Best for Cortown were John McFadden, Ivor O'Halloran, John Casserly, Glen Loughran, Stephen Fitzmaurice and Gordon Codd.
Ballinlough had good performances from Keith Mc Guinness, Benji Smith, Vinny Ryan and Peadar Byrne.
Cortown - J.McFadden; J. McGearty, P.Kerrigan, I.O'Halloran; J.Casserly, S.Skelton, M.Casserly; G.Loughran (0-1), J.Fagan; B.Smith (0-1), M.Henry, C.Kerrigan; I.Coyne (0-1), S.Fitzmaurice (0-1), G.Codd (0-6). Subs - B.Casserly (0-1) for S.Fitzmaurioce; D.Casserly for B.Smith; J.Reilly for I.Coyne.
Ballinlough: K Mc Guinness; B Smith, P Muldoon, R Farrell, E O' Reilly, K Devine, L Maguire, T Mc Cullen, S Byrne, C Briody, K Rothwell (0-2, 0-1f), V Ryan, Colm Mallen (0-3f), R Mc Guinness, P Byrne (0-4). Subs: K Mallen for S Byrne and D Muldoon (0-1) for Rothwell.