The Trabeg giants were previously felled in August 2009 by Carbery and it took another divisional team to take them out of this year’s title race.
Avondhu, by their own admission, are an unfashionable underdog in Cork football, evidenced by selector Eugene Casey’s head-scratch as he tried to figure out the last time they had reached the last four.
The North Cork division had made undeniable progress this year but this triumph raises their stock onto a whole new level. In awakening their own potential, they’ve also blown this year’s championship wide open.
“It might be a big shock to people around the county and people within Avondhu, but not to the people within the squad,” said Casey. “If you look at our squad, there are a few lads who have a lot of inter-county senior experience while a few more have been knocking at the door of Cork teams at other levels. The mood in the camp was very good all week.
“I think it’s 60 or 65 years ago since we were last in a semi-final but I honestly don’t know. You don’t always get these chances. There’s no guarantee that Avondhu can reach a county semi-final for the next few years just because they’ve done so this year. We have to seize this chance.”
Clearly there are factors that have aligned to fuel Avondhu’s progress to a semi-final meeting with UCC. The availability of Ray Carey and Paul O’Flynn this year has been of immense benefit as the pair were affiliated with Cork IT in 2009 and 2010. They were tremendous on Saturday with O’Flynn a particularly dynamic force at right half-back. The work ethic in the Avondhu camp was underlined by the drive of Paudie Kissane at centre-back and Mallow duo Hurl Dockery and Eoin Stanton at midfield. Up front they had match-winners in Cian O’Riordan, who fired over some beautiful points in the second half, and Tom Monaghan, whose acceleration took him clear of the Nemo Rangers defence in the 20th minute to calmly plant the ball in the net. And all this without cruciate victim Colm O’Neill, the star of their first round win over Beara last March.
Nemo Rangers were out of sync from the off, as reflected by the fact that it took them 26 minutes to get their first score. There were mitigating factors — being stripped of key figures like Brian O’Regan, David Niblock and Barry O’Driscoll through injury has hit them hard this year.
Typically they battled on with inspirational defenders Aidan O’Reilly and Colin O’Brien helping limit the damage caused by Avondhu in the first half. Paul Kerrigan was their only forward to sparkle and his trio of points saw them only trail by 1-2 to 0-3 after a mediocre opening half. In truth, there was little improvement in quality after the break but significantly Avondhu upped the tempo and pilfered crucial scores from Monaghan and O’Riordan. By the third quarter, they were 1-6 to 0-5 ahead and their dominance generated the belief that they could prevail. With Carey and Ollie O’Hanlon leading a watertight rearguard, Avondhu never looked like shipping goals and time ran out on Nemo’s hopes.
However, the camaraderie that was so evident on Saturday will quickly evaporate as the Avondhu players return to club duty in Killavullen next Saturday as 14 members of the squad face off when Mallow and Clyda Rovers clash in the Premier IFC.
“We just spoke about that there in the huddle,” laughed Casey. “We just wish all of them well. There are a lot of players still playing with their clubs and it’s a slight disadvantage. There’s big local rivalry there but they’ll be back with us soon enough.”
Scorers for Avondhu: T Monaghan 1-3, C O’Riordan 0-3 (0-1f), P O’Flynn, C O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan 0-5 (0-2f, 0-1 ‘45), J Masters, A Cronin (Snr) 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’Connell (Killavullen); H Dockery (Mallow), E Stanton (Mallow); C O’Sullivan (Clyda Rovers), K Sheehan (Mallow), E O’Connor (Kildorrery); T Monaghan (Kildorrery), C O’Riordan (Mallow), T O’Shea (Ballyclough).
Subs: D Hayes (Mallow) for O’Sullivan (39), J Hutchings (Fermoy) for O’Shea (44), F O’Shea (Clyda Rovers) for Sheehan (57).
NEMO RANGERS: B Morgan; S McKeown, A O’Reilly, P Hogan; B Twomey, D Breen, C O’Brien; P Morgan, D Mehigan; P Kerrigan, A Cronin (Snr), S Marshall; J Masters, S O’Brien, L Connolly.
Subs: D Farry for B Morgan (inj) (16), A Cronin (Jnr) for McKeown (35), M Dorgan for Mehigan (37), W Morgan for O’Brien (39), A Morgan for Connolly (53).
Referee: Ger Sweeney (Glenville).