Fr O’Neill’s 1-20 Blarney 1-18
FR O’NEILL’S are into their first PIHC final but they had to hold off a fierce second-half rally by Blarney to book that date in a few weeks time.
This might be a well worn cliche at this stage but this another illustration of a contest being a game of two halves at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
At the interval the East Cork team, aided by a fairly substantial breeze, had constructed a 10-point advantage.
They looked to be well on their way to a final showdown with Kilworth but Blarney certainly had other ideas.
They came back out a totally reinvented side and going into stoppage time they had the margin between the teams down to the bare minimum.
But O’Neill’s held their nerve in what was a frenetic finale to a tremendous second-half and they were a very relieved bunch of players when referee Mark Maher called time.
It would be too simplistic to suggest that the game was mostly about two players, Deccie Dalton in the opening half for O’Neill’s and Cork star Mark Coleman in the second for Blarney.
Dalton ended up with a haul of 11 points with Coleman securing eight for his side and both were hugely influential figures as the contest went right to the wire.
The game had a sensational start with O’Neill’s, courtesy of Billy Dunne, slamming home a goal after just 17 seconds.
Blarney’s riposte to that very early setback was to go straight back down the field and claim a goal of their own from Shane Barrett.
However, for the remainder of the half it was all O’Neill’s as they made full use of the breeze and Dalton rifled over points from frees, a sublime sideline puck and open play.
Rob Cullinane, Mark O’Keeffe, Kevin O’Sullivan and Eoin Conway got in on the scoring act as well as they proceeded to exert their influence on the proceedings.
Blarney could have added another goal or two themselves but all they could muster up on the board were points from Pádraig Power, Declan Hanlon and Mark Coleman.
It was 1-13 to 1-3 at the break with O’Neill’s the far more dominant force.
Billy Dunne embellished their advantage when they resumed but six unanswered points from the Mid Corkmen had them really motoring.
Alan McEvoy, who had a fine second-half, Coleman, Hanlon, Power and Barrett secured those scores and suddenly it was game on.
O’Neill’s backs were to the wall now but they continued to hold the advantage on the board.
However, by the 49th minute there was just three points separating the teams after a brace of Coleman points and, as they say, the fat was in the fire now.
Dan Harrington was doing a lot of good work for O’Neill’s at number six but their netminder Colin Sloane had to be alert to deny Coleman.
With five minutes remaining the Ladysbridge-Ballymacoda outfit were five points to the good after a brace from Dalton and another from sub Jasson Hankard.
But again the Blarney boys refused to surrender and points from McEvoy, Hanlon and another from Coleman had it back to two points.
It was all hands on deck now on both sides and when Coleman landed a Blarney 65 in stoppage time it was a point game.
It was gripping stuff now with nerves frayed on all sides However, O’Neill’s had the final say and a point from another sub, Liam O’Driscoll, had them in their first final at this level Blarney went down gallantly but O’Neill’s had that extra bit of firepower that got them over the line.
They were asked big questions in that second-half but they survived to tell the tale and in the process their character was severely tested here.
Scorers for Fr O’Neills: D Dalton 0-11 (0-5 f, 0-1 65, 0-1 sideline), B Dunne 1-1, K O’Sullivan 0-2, M O’Keeffe, R Cullianne, P McMahon, E Conway, L O’Driscoll, J Hankard 0-1 each.
Blarney: M Coleman 0-9 (0-5 f, 0-1 65, 0-1 sideline), S Barrett 1-1, D Hanlon, A McEvoy 0-3 each, P Power 0-2.
FR O’NEILLS: C Sloane; M Millerick, G Millerick, Adam Kenneally; J Barry, D Harrington, Adrian Kenneally; M O’Keeffe, K O’Sullivan; R Cullinane, P McMahon, E Conway; J Millerick, D Dalton, B Dunne.
Subs: P Butler for Adrian Kenneally (25-half-time, blood), L O’Driscoll for Conway, J Hankard for J Millerick (both 36), C Broderick for Adam Kenneally (54), Butler for Adrian Kenneally (58).
BLARNEY: P Hallissey; S Crowley, P O’Leary, A McEvoy; J Jordan, C Power, D McSweeney, P Philpott, M Coleman; R Murphy, P Crowley, D Hanlon; K Costello, P Power, S Barrett.
Sub: D Dunlea for Costello (half-time).
Referee: M Maher (St Finbarr’s).