The north Cork men will be pitted against champions Nemo Rangers in Saturday’s quarter-final tie in Rathcormac, but a place in the last eight looked beyond them for large stages of normal time in this clash. After a subdued opening-half performance when they trailed 1-3 to 0-2 at the interval, they struggled again in the third quarter to produce any meaningful patterns of play.
Aghada held all the aces at that juncture as they possessed a 1-5 to 0-2 lead, yet remarkably, they would only score a single point, courtesy of substitute Brendan Crowley, in the remainder of the match. Avondhu produced a ferocious finish to normal time, ignited by a towering display from Paudie Kissane, who drove them on from centre-back and a free-scoring performance by Cian O’Riordan up front as he wriggled clear of the tight marking of Kieran O’Connor to land vital points.
It was fitting that Kissane and O’Riordan should land the final two points in the 58th and 59th minutes to crown Avondhu’s comeback and ensure additional periods would be required to settle this contest. When the floodlights were switched on for the start of extra-time, Avondhu maintained the momentum from their recovery operation and dominated all over the pitch. They fired over seven points without reply and ran out worthy winners at the finish.
It was a stunning transformation by Avondhu considering they kicked two points in the first 45 minutes of the game and then raised 14 white flags in the remaining 35 minutes. Their accuracy and composure in front of goal improved immeasurably but their ability to prise open the Aghada defence with greater frequency was also pivotal. That could be attributed to their greater athleticism at the finish as they benefitted hugely from the influx of fresh legs from the bench. Substitutes Eoin Stanton, who came on early in the first-half, Colm O’Connell and Denis Hayes all produced significant performances when they were introduced.
That was allied to the greater influence exerted by Kissane and O’Riordan at opposite ends of the pitch while Kevin Sheehan and Conor O’Sullivan, both members of the Cork minor side that reached last year’s All-Ireland final, impressed with the options they took when in possession and their sharp movement.
It was a dispiriting night for Aghada, who had began so well. They were intent on forcing the issue in the opening half and defended brilliantly. Avondhu’s shooting may have been erratic as they chalked up nine wides in the first-half yet the pressure being exerted by the likes of Kieran O’Connor, Stephen Cashman and JP O’Connor was also instrumental to that. Up front scores were hard to come by for Aghada but they struck a significant blow in the 12th minute when Cian Fleming showed good strength to barge through the Avondhu rearguard and finished clinically to the net.
But Avondhu landed two important points through O’Riordan and Tom Monaghan to settle. O’Riordan kicked five points in the final quarter with Sheehan and Kissane also chipping in. Then in extra-time they took over with a string of points and Aghada’s woes were compounded with the late dismissal of Michael Russell for a second yellow card.
Scorers for Avondhu: C O’Riordan 0-8 (0-6f), P Kissane, K Sheehan 0-2 each, E O’Connor, T Monaghan, C O’Sullivan, D Hayes 0-1 each.
Scorers for Aghada: C Fleming 1-2 (0-1 ’45, 0-1f), B Crowley, P O’Neill, T O’Neill, E Savage 0-1 each.
AVONDHU: C Quilligan (Mallow); N Barry (Grange), R Carey (Clyda Rovers), O O’Hanlon (Clyda Rovers); P O’Flynn (Ballyclough), P Kissane (Clyda Rovers), C O’Sullivan (Clyda Rovers); H Dockery (Mallow), J Hayes (Mallow); K Sheehan (Mallow), D O’Mahoney (Kilshannig), E O’Connor (Kildorrery); T Monaghan (Kildorrery), C O’Riordan (Mallow), T O’Shea (Ballyclough).
Subs: E Stanton (Mallow) for J Hayes (inj) (13), C O’Connell (Killavullen) for O’Shea (36), D Hayes (Mallow) for Monaghan (45), J Hutchings (Fermoy) for O’Mahony (52), V O’Donoghue (Araglin) for O’Connor (77).
AGHADA: A O’Donoghue; B Hennessy, K O’Connor, S Cashman; E Savage, JP O’Connor, T O’Neill; E Healy, P O’Neill; J Connolly, J O’Shea, C Power; M Russell, B O’Flaherty, C Fleming.
Subs: B Crowley for Power (39), H Fanning for Connolly (70), A O’Connell for Savage (74), R Savage for O’Shea (77).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers),