NO championship mirrored the importance of timing a run to the winning line more than the Bon Secours county premier intermediate football championship.
It also added greatly to the discussion surrounding the relevance of either qualifying directly for the semi-finals by topping a group or playing an extra game at the quarter-final stage.
The debate will continue next season into the third and final year of the new format, one that has been a resounding success and is sure to be cemented in rule well into the future.
Two clubs, the eventual champions, Newmarket, and Cill na Martra, the pre-competition favourites, reflected the near polar opposite ways of finding a way to ultimate glory.
On one hand you had the Duhallow club struggling to even emerge from their section containing Aghada, Na Piarsaigh, and Castletownbere while the Gaeltacht side simply repeated last season, winning all three games with ease.
After two outings Newmarket were not only in grave danger of missing out on the knock-out stage, but faced the embarrassment of being dragged into a potential relegation play-off.
They drew their opening game with Aghada, a high-scoring 0-14 each affair, but lost to Na Piarsaigh by three.
At this juncture, Newmarket had only one point to their name, had yet to score a goal and looked vulnerable going into their all-or-nothing tie with Castletownbere.
Kevin O’Sullivan finally ended their goal-drought in a narrow
1-9 to 1-8 success, but would three points suffice to extend their championship campaign?
Aghada’s victory over Na Piarsaigh ensured Newmarket just about squeezed into the quarter-finals with the lowest number of points for the second-placed qualifiers behind Naomh Aban and Nemo, who both had four.
Their anxiety contrasted with Cill na Martra’s stress-free progress in Group B, winning all three games against Nemo, Rockchapel and St Vincent’s by a combined margin of 25 points.
History, however, has a habit of jumping up and biting you where it hurts most because Cill na Martra, for the second successive season, fell at the next fence.
Twelve months ago it was Kanturk, who ended their championship ambitions, and this time it was another north-west outfit, Newmarket, who struck for two early goals from Ryan O’Keeffe and Barry O’Connor in a shock 2-7 to 0-7 triumph.
A critical change in emphasis, from stock-piling at the back and counter-attacking, was considered huge in Newmarket’s march to the title, becoming evident first in the quarter-final win over Ballyvourney.
That Newmarket pulled off what was a considered a surprise enough victory was embellished by a stunning nine-point margin at the end.
Kanturk took the same route as Cill na Martra in Group A, maintaining a winning sequence against St Nick’s, Macroom, and Naomh Abán, a feat all the more praiseworthy considering they were on a hurling mission at the same time.
And, after surviving a scare from Aghada in the semi-final, Kanturk appeared to have one hand on the trophy with a two-point lead entering injury-time in the final only to be mugged by three late Newmarket points.