IT was hard to envisage anything other than a comfortable win for Avondhu for much of this county senior hurling championship clash with Carbery at Cloughduv last Saturday evening.
Aided by a goal from corner-forward Adrian Mannix, they finished the first half 1-8 to 0-4 in front, and seemingly playing well within themselves, they had stretched the gap to nine points within ten minutes of the restart.
Following the boost of a goal by Rory O'Sullivan, Carbery rallied towards the end of the third quarter, but Avondhu quickly regained the whip-hand, and the deal looked down and dusted after Peter O'Brien brought his personal tally to eleven points to make it 1-15 to 1-8 inside the last ten minutes.
Perhaps, the North Cork men were guilty of resting on their laurels at that juncture, but whether or which, they were forced to relinquish the initiative on the run-in, as Carbery put in a strong finish, with substitute Alan Hayes grabbing a crucial goal and Eoin Kelly converting four placed balls to earn them a reprieve.
Not surprisingly, Avondhu boss Johnny Keane wasn't a happy camper at the final whistle, although he was relieved at the same time that his charges lived to fight another day.
"We were in cruise-control in the first half, and again, even after we conceded a sloppy goal, well in the second half, but then, for whatever reason, we just stopped hurling with ten minutes to go. To be honest, if there had been another minute to play, Carbery would probably have won the game, but I'd be reasonably encouraged with the way we performed overall, and I'd be hopeful we can get the job done in the replay," he said.
Following a tentative opening ten minutes at the end of which Carbery led by 0-2 to 0-1, Avondhu steadily asserted their authority, with Darragh Carroll, Mike Walsh and Jerry Hayes gaining a firm grip in the half-back line.
Eoin Dillon was to the fore as well at midfield as Avondhu piled on the pressure, forging four points ahead before a long delivery from Darragh Carroll led to a goal from Adrian Mannix goal shortly before the break. Peter O'Brien was Avondhu's chief marksman, shooting six points, four from frees, with Anthony Watson and Andrew Cagney others to get on the scoresheet in the first half.
There was little change in the pattern of the play on the turnover, with Noel McNamara and O'Brien quickly adding to Avondhu's tally, but Carbery, trailing by 1-11 to 0-5, were thrown a lifeline when Rory O'Sullivan goaled in the 41st minute.
O'Sullivan, switched from the '40 to full forward with good effect, later chipped in with a point as Carbery battled hard to keep the game alive, but Avondhu looked ready to cruise home after O'Brien replied with a brace, the second, and his side's last, an exquisite score stemming from another long clearance by Darragh Carroll. Carroll had an excellent outing at wing-back, possibly earning the man of the match rating ahead of the free-scoring O'Brien, whose return included three well-taken points from play.
Walsh, Hayes, James Hennessy and James O'Sullivan at the back, Dillon and, to a lesser extent, Danny O'Flynn at midfield also showed up well, but, aside from O'Brien, none of the Avondhu forwards made a major impact.
Still, they looked capable of winning in a canter until they dropped their guard, resulting in a remarkable conclusion to what was a low-key encounter overall.
Avondhu: P O'Brien 0-11, 0-8 frees, A Mannix 1-0, A Watson, A Cagney, N McNamara and D O'Flynn 0-1 each
Carbery: E Kelly 0-6, 0-5 frees R O'Sullivan 1-1, 0-4 frees, A Hayes 1-0, M Cahalane 0-2, J Wall 0-2 frees, J Sheehan 0-1
Avondhu: K Walsh (Kilworth) C O'Flynn (Charleville), J Hennessy (Ballyhea), J O'Sullivan (Fermoy), D Carroll(do.), M Walsh (Kildorrery), J Hayes (Mallow), E Dillon (Milford), D O'Flynn (Charleville), S Beston (Ballygiblin), P O'Brien (Kildorrery), A Watson (Milford), N McNamara (Kilworth), A Cagney (Charleville), A Mannix (Kilworth) Subs: H O'Gorman (Milford) for Beston, D Pyne (Glanworth) for O'Gorman,, T Fitzgibbon (Churchtown) for Cagney
Carbery: J McSweeny (Bandon), P Crowley (do.) J Murphy (Kilbrittain), C Hickey (do), P Butler (Argideen Rangers), C O'Driscoll (St Oliver Plunkett's) J Walsh (Bandon), D Crowley (do.), E O'Donovan (do), M Sexton (Kilbrittain), R O'Sullivan (Argideen Rangers), J Sheehan (do), E Kelly (Newcestown), M Cahalane (Bandon), J Wall (Kilbrittain) Subs: D Hickey (Kilbrittain) for D Crowley, A Hayes (do.) for Sheehan
Referee: D Carroll (Kanturk)