It took a last-gasp point from young Cork star Donncha O’Connor to pull Duhallow through, but wasteful Avondhu can take a bow for a stirring performance that should have reaped better reward.
Duhallow coach Ned English summed it up. “We really had to grind out a result tonight. Avondhu were well prepared, it was easy to see that, but while we did not play well, I though the lads grafted hard and held their heads.
“Believe me, I’m happier winning by one point rather than 10. The players know now what it takes to win championship games. Yes, we were lucky, but I can promise you we’ll be much better next time out.”
And they’ll need to be. They opened in whirlwind fashion and inside five minutes O’Connor, Gearóid Murphy with a free and Niall Cronin pushed them three points clear.
In fairness to Avondhu, there was no sign of panic, and Mossie O’Brien and Elton Pierce should have done better with good chances. But when they fell further in arrears in the 10th minute to an O’Connor free, it was already looking Duhallow’s night.
Pierce did finally open Avondhu’s account with a free in the 14th minute, but it was 0-5 to 0-1 in favour of the Duhallow men after the opening quarter when Billy Dennehy kicked a splendid point.
But Avondhu came right back into the contest in the second quarter, Donal Relihan and Paudie Kissane were now far more effective at midfield against Seamus and James O’Sullivan. Relihan, the big Killavullen player, got their second point in the 18th minute, followed by another from full-forward Andrew O’Brien.
There was more bite in Avondhu now, excellent centre-back Colm O’Connell and Mossie O’Brien full of running. Duhallow keeper Kevin Murphy experienced a few anxious moments, but, though rusty looking, they stuck to their task well and after both sides exchanged a brace of points, it was the former champions who led 0-7 to 0-5 at the break.
Duhallow lost full-forward Billy Dennehy through injury just before the interval and he was a big loss. O’Connor filled the berth for the second half, but, just back from injury, he was never his comfortable self and, as a consequence, Duhallow struggled up front.
It was in this period that Avondhu lost the game for, after O’Connor stretched Duhallow’s lead with a free, the North Cork divisional side proceeded to kick six costly wides from good positions — Andrew O’Brien and Michael Sheehan chief culprits.
The advent of Tom Monaghan did steady them again, for he kicked two mighty frees as Avondhu trailed by just the minimum entering the final quarter, 0-8 to 0-7. But what Avondhu did at one end, Duhallow matched at the other, with both Murphy and O’Connor missing free chances almost in front of the posts.
And Avondhu took full advantage when Andy O’Brien finally came good with a super free effort to tie up the scores in the 47th minute.
Game on now, all out effort from both sides, point for point right up to the 59th minute and extra-time looming. But, in one final raid, Seamus O’Sullivan set up O’Connor for the winning point, palpable relief indeed for Duhallow, leaving Avondhu to rue their bad luck.
Scorers for Duhallow: D. O’Connor 0-5 (0-3 frees), N. Cronin 0-3, G. Murphy 0-2 (0-1 free), B. Dennehy 0-1.
Avondhu: A. O’Brien 0-5 (0-2 frees 0-1 65), T. Monaghan 0-2 (frees), E. Pierce (free), D. Relihan, P. Kissane 0-1 each.
K. Murphy (Boherbue); P. Gayer (Castlemagner), J. Dennehy (Kiskeam), B. Daly (Newmarket); G. Healy (Ballydesmond), D. O’Brien (Newmarket), P. O’Leary (Kiskeam); S. O’Sullivan (Dromtarriffe), J. O’Sullivan (Cullen); E. O’Mahony (Kiskeam), N. O’Sullivan (Dromtarriffe), D. O’Connor (Ballydesmond); G. Murphy (Dromtarriffe), L. Dennehy (Kiskeam), N. Cronin (Kiskeam).
Subs: M. Dilworth (Knocknagree) for L. Dennehy (inj, ht), T. Dennehy (Kiskeam) for O’Mahony (37 min), J. Buckley (Knocknagree) for Murphy (55).
M. Kennedy (Ballyclough), P. Carroll (do), J. O’Callaghan (Doneraile), W. Blackburne (Glanworth); T. Feehan (Churchtown), C. O’Connell (Killavullen), M. O’Brien (Clyda Roves); D. Relihan (Killavullen), P. Kissane (Clyda Rovers); E. Pierce (Kilworth), J. O’Shea (Ballyclough), S. Coughlan (Kildorrery); M. Sheehan (Glanworth), A. O’Brien (Kildorrery), C. Courtney (Mitchelstown).
Subs: T. Monaghan (Kildorrery) for Pierce (ht), D. White (Kildorrery) for Courtney (45).
J. Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).