Mick Hagan’s last gasp pointed free kick salvaged a draw for Ardboe in the opening ACL tie with Errigal Ciaran at Coney Park on Saturday.
The lead in the contest had ebbed and flowed over the duration of the game and a draw will probably have sent both camps home satisfied.
Ardboe, playing their first competitive game under the tutelage of former Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless, looked sharp in the opening minutes but their shooting too often let them down.
The Rossa hit five wides in the opening twelve minutes, scoring just once, a free from corner forward Mick Hagan.
Errigal Ciaran in comparison proved a little more economical in front of goals in the early stages, a Darren Cavanan free and an effort from play from Davy Harte helped them into a one point lead.
Conditions prior to throw-in had been almost perfect but a ten minute downpour just as Stephen McNamee got the game under way saw the ball and underfoot conditions much slippier and the quality of the play suffered a little
Kyle Coney showed his class with a well taken effort in the 15th minute and just a minute later Mattie Bell kicked an effort for his side to give them the lead.
Ardboe now had momentum,their confidence beginning to rise. Two minutes later they found the Errigal net. Brian McGuigan, deployed at full forward for his side, found the net with a well taken left footed effort.
McGuigan’s play throughout was excellent, the former AllStar showing quite a turn and burst of speed at times causing problems for the Errigal rearguard.
Errigal might well have netted in response but Peter Harte had an effort blocked down, while the same player found his cousin David a couple of minutes later from a 45 but the experienced Errigal defender kicked badly wide.
Errigal looked to have lost their way somewhat and Shay McGuigan’s point from play stretched the Ardboe lead to five with 25 minutes gone.
Ronan McGuckin’s charges came right back into the game however and began to rattle off a few scores. Tomas Canavan began with a free in the 27th minute of the half and the same player added another three minutes later.
Another injury time score by Darren Canavan saw Errigal move within two of Ardboe and, just before the halftime whistle it was back to a solitary point, Peter Harte winning a kickout and setting up Canavan for his third point.
A beautifully judged Daisy McDermott point from a narrow angle brought the sides level but a Mick Hagan free saw the Rossa lead once again.
It might have been a four point lead as a smart turn, run and lay-off from McGuigan put Paul Coney in on goal but the midfielder fired his effort wide of the near post with just the keeper to beat.
Ronan Campbell had another goal chance for his side a minute later but his effort didn’t threaten John Devine in the Errigal net.
The ball rose and appeared to bisect the posts but the umpire flagged wide which led to a heated discussion, before referee Stephen McNamee awarded the score.
Errigal brought the deficit back to a point two minutes later as Darren Canavan converted another free and the sides were level when the full-forward added his fifth after a foul on Aidan McCrory.
Errigal might well have netted a minute later when Peter Harte set up his cousin David, but the centre half back had his effort saved by Conor McGrath. The follow up from Paudge McAnenly was deflected out for a 45.
Tomas Canavan gave Errigal the lead with five minutes remaining with a brilliant sideline ball as the visitors looked like they might just emerge with the points.
Ardboe however had other ideas as Hagan struck with the last kick of the contest with a 14 metre free from a narrow angle to rescue a home point.