IT could easily be said that in the great hurling homes of Fr O’Neill’s these are the days of their lives.
Twelve months ago the Ladysbridge-Ballymacoda combination won the game of the year in the Cork County Premier U21 final, defeating Midleton after extra-time in an absolute thriller.
A few years earlier the club reigned supreme in the Cork County IHC and, of course, in the process graduated to the premier level.
And Saturday night in Páirc Uí Rinn they take on Kilworth in the final of that grade, without doubt, the biggest game in the club’s proud history.
Some of the best, young hurlers in the county will be lining up and the team is a fine mix of youth and experience.
Dave Colbert is joint manager of the team with James O’Connor doing the coaching after he led Carrigtwohill to the senior county title in 2011.
He has been a huge addition to the resources and, according to Colbert, he’s been a great influence.
“Yes, we brought James in at the start of the year and he’s been great for us. He knew the East Cork scene very well and Cork in general since his days with Carrigtwohill and the players have responded very well to him.”
O’Neill’s have taken the direct route to this defining day, seeing off Ballincollig, Fermoy, Watergrasshill and Blarney.
“It’s a tough grade, there are certainly no easy games and it is a very level playing field with a lot of teams in with a chance at the outset.
“Getting into the final of this competition is not easy but we have managed it and this now is the final hurdle for us.”
Three of the club’s stars, Ger Millerick, Mark O’Keeffe and Deccie Dalton have been on a dual mission, lining out with the club one week and Imokilly the next in their quest for three-in-a-row.
“Yes, but they are well used to that now. Thankfully, they came through with Imokilly last weekend and their sole focus for us now is this final.
“We manage it as best we can and the lads manage it well themselves so it’s so far, so good. It would be great if they end up with two medals but it’s first things first.”
All week the buzz in the area has been fantastic, support coming from all quarters, according to Colbert. “We have great support all over the area. Sunday is a massive day for everyone and the club is really thriving at the moment.
“Our juvenile section is thriving, that’s always the platform for the adult teams and they are looked after very well.
“We have been fortunate in recent years to win silverware at intermediate and U21 level but this would top it all.
“We will be playing senior hurling next season but going up as champions would be great.”
And their opponents Kilworth?
“We played them in the quarter-final last season, beat them by a few points but they are in a final now and any side that comes through in this grade are a good side.
“They have a lot of experience, have done their business, had a great win over Inniscarra the last day and we know that it will be another big ask for us. But we are ready and cautiously optimistic.’’