For the second time in a week it took them 20 minutes of added time to see off their opponents, this time the students of Cork IT, in the county senior hurling championship, to reach the last eight for the first time in 10 years.
On a dreadful night for hurling, close on 400 spectators huddled together in the persistent rain at Rathcormac to see the North Cork divisional side come from three points down after 50 minutes to force extra time and then defend stoutly to hold on for the narrowest of wins.
A lot of attention was on Neil Ronan who many felt was hard done by in not playing in the recent Munster championship semi-final against Tipperary, and he certainly did nothing wrong in this game, finishing with six points, two of them from play.
Brian Corry (CIT) was another county senior who made a big impression but it was Leigh Desmond who was the best player on view. Avondhu had stormed into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead inside the opening 10 minutes, but CIT brought Desmond out to midfield and at the break only a point separated the sides after the students hit four points without reply.
The dominance of Jonathan O’Callaghan at midfield and the excellence of Dave Moher at wing forward ensured Avondhu won the early exchanges, but they lost the initiative after O’Callaghan was forced off with a knee injury and Leigh Desmond’s arrival at midfield.
Turning to play with the wind and rain, CIT wasted little time in drawing level with points by the impressive James Moylan and Brian Corry and as the Avondhu challenge wilted, the students hit the front for the first time when Gavin O’Riordan came forward to score a great long range point.
There was a general tightening up in the CIT defence where substitute Liam Ryan, Gavin O’Riordan, Eoin Dillon and John O’Callaghan reigned supreme and by the end of the third quarter the students had opened up a three point lead and were looking good for a place in the quarter-finals.
However as so often happens on a greasy surface, players began to struggle to control the sliothar and after Neil Ronan landed an Avondhu point, their first score for 26 minutes, the divisional side struck their opening goal.
It came following a lengthy clearance out of his own defence by Dave Fitzgerald which skidded off the surface and Maurice O’Sullivan ran onto the lose ball to score a splendid goal which gave his side a point lead with three minutes of normal time left.
The students threw everything at Avondhu in search of the equalising score and it was fitting that Brian Corry should come up with it a minute from time to force 20 minutes of extra time.
Both teams had agreed to playing extra time due to fixture congestion, but the poor light suggested the game would not finish if it restarted. However the referee proceeded and at the end of the first period, a second Avondhu goal by Andrew O’Brien left the divisional side in front 2-11 to 0-15.
The second period was played out with great intensity as both sides went all out for the win, and it took some great defending by Dave Fitzgerald and Stephen Fox in the Avondhu defence to keep out the students.
Leigh Desmond cut the deficit to the minimum with a point from a long range free and as the tension mounted, the students wasted three chances to level the game through poor finishing. At the other end Dave Moher gave Avondhu some breathing space with his third point from play but Desmond was back for a like score and time ticked away.
The closing minutes were played out with great passion as CIT looked for the levelling score but a resolute Avondhu defence held firm for a quarter-final place against the winners of the UCC/Imokilly tie.
Scorers — Avondhu: N. Ronan 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65); D. Moher 0-3; M. O’Sullivan, A. O’Brien 1-0 each; Donal Relihan, Dave Relihan, B. Murphy 0-1 each.
CIT: L. Desmond 0-7 (0-3 frees, 0-2 65s); B. Corry, J. Moylan 0-3 each; D. Coughlan, S. Corcoran, G. O’Riordan, L. Mannix 0-1 each.
AVONDHU: K. Walsh (Kilworth); S. Fox (Ballygiblin), R. Relihan (Castletownroche), D. Coughlan (Mallow); B. Coleman (Ballyhea), D. Hayes (Mallow), T. Healy (Buttevant); J. O’Callaghan (Castletownroche), David Relihan (do.); D. Moher (Ballygiblin), P. O’Brien (Kildorrery), D. Relihan (Castletownroche); B. Murphy (Mallow), N. Ronan (Ballyhea), M. O’Sullivan (Ballyhea).
Subs: D. Fitzgerald (Charleville) for O’Callaghan; A. O’Brien (Kildorrery) for P. O’Brien.
CIT: R. Cunningham (Youghal); J. O’Callaghan (Inniscarra), E. Dillon (Milford), E. Clancy (Fermoy); D. Lynch (Valley Rovers), R. Cashman (Kilbrittain), G. O’Riordan (Bandon); S. O’Hare (Waterford), T. Murphy (Inniscarra); L. Desmond (Youghal), B. Corry (Ballymartle), D. Coughlan (Kinsale); J. Moylan (Douglas), A. Mannix (Kilworth), S. Corcoran (Carrigaline).
Subs: L. Ryan (Inniscarra) for Clancy; D. Coleman (Carrignavar) for C. Hayes.
Referee: C. McAlister (Aghada).