Last year’s beaten Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC finalists Fr O’Neills came close to defeat in Sunday’s Group C opener, but Joe Millerick’s late goal ensured that they salvaged a draw.
Having trailed for much of the encounter against Newcestown in Páirc Uí Rinn, the Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side were four points behind as the game reached the 60-minute mark, but they dug deep to secure a point, to the relief of manager Robbie Dalton.
“It was a great point,” he said.
“Looking at it, we were second fiddle for most of the game but our fellas showed great character to come back, being four or five points down and getting the draw.
“We even had a chance to win it in the end with a free – it wasn’t to be but, look, we’ll take the point.
“They’re a good team and we had to be at our best, but we weren’t at our best today. There were stages where they cut through us, but again I have to say that the character our fellas showed to get the draw was fantastic.
“You’ve a good bunch of lads there. A lot of fellas just ran their hearts out and there were guys going down with cramp, but they still managed to get the point.”
Newcestown manager Charlie Wilson admitted that they could have won but, having lost to O’Neills in last year’s semi-final, the result still represented progress.
“You make your own luck,” he said, “and we gave them opportunities and they made their own luck.
“Still, it’s very positive – we closed a huge gap from last year, they beat us by three goals then, and we’re happy in that sense.
“As a dual club, it takes us time to get going because we wouldn’t have as many games played as hurling-only clubs but we’re going to knuckle down and get on with it.
“The goal at the end was fortunate, a deflection, but that’s the way it goes.
“We don’t knock anyone, give everyone an opportunity and off we go. Fellas tried exceptionally hard and you can never knock lads for that. As long as they’re trying, job done.”
Next up for Newcestown is a meeting against Cloyne in Ballyanly next Sunday, with the Imokilly side coming off a defeat to Killeagh.
“There’s two teams that qualify and once you’re one of those teams, that’s all we’ll worry about,” Wilson said.
“There’s a day’s work to be done again next Sunday and another one coming shortly after that, so there’s no chance to sit on our laurels and say, ‘Well done,’ or pat ourselves on the back.”
O’Neills face Killeagh in an East Cork derby in Youghal, though they are still likely to be without Cork star Ger Millerick.
“We’ve Killeagh now next week,” Dalton said, “another tough team.
“They’re good, they’re solid and we’re looking forward to that now.
“Ger is probably away for another three or four weeks. We’ll just have to wait on the medics for that.”