Fr O’Neill's 1-19 Bride Rovers 1-15
FR O’Neill’s produced a magnificent display to book their place in next Sunday's Co Op Superstores Senior A Hurling final following a hard-earned win over Bride Rovers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Their free-taking was spot on, while a goal from Jason Hankard in the first half was a crucial moment, especially as O’Neill’s were without Cork seniors Declan Dalton and Ger Millerick, as well as Liam O’Driscoll, through injury. They didn't allow their high-profile absentees to derail them, coming from behind in the early stages to set up a clash with Kanturk.
It only took two minutes for Fr O’Neill’s to get up and running when Kevin O’Sullivan split the uprights following a free after Cillian Broderick was fouled on route to goal. However, the Rathcormac side responded in style and consecutive William Finnegan points from frees edged them ahead in the fifth minute.
The opening exchanges was all about both teams giving away soft frees but a classy Shane O’Connor point in the ninth minute extended Bride Rovers lead 0-4 to 0-2. The fouling continued and up to the 15th minute out of the nine points scored seven were from placed balls.
Just before the water break in the 17th minute came the best move of the game. Fr O’Neill’s full-forward Jason Hankard caught a high ball before assisting a pass to Billy Dunne who flicked to the in rushing Padraig McMahon who could have done better but he did manage to raise a white flag.
The Ballymacoda side trailed 0-6 to 0-5 in the 18th minute but they levelled proceedings with a superb Broderick effort. O’Sullivan’s fourth point from placed balls edged O’Neill’s ahead two minutes later and the east Cork side surged further clear in the 24th minute with a quality goal.
A high ball into the square was doubled on by full-forward Hankard as Fr O’Neill’s were now very much in the ascendancy. Three consecutive O’Neill’s points and suddenly Bride were trailing by seven.
A Bride Rovers' 15-minute scoring drought finally ended just before half-time when Finnegan converted a free. He added two more in injury time to trim the gap to five, 1-11 to 0-9.
The Bride Rovers statistics didn’t make pretty reading at the break as out of the nine points accumulated only two had came from play. Bride came out firing for the second half though and consecutive points from Daniel Dooley and Finnegan gave them the perfect start.
It took eight minutes for O’Neill’s to register their next score and it arrived from Sullivan, his ninth placed ball, and he added his 10th soon after.
On the rare occasions that Bride Rovers threatened the Fr O’Neill’s defence the outstanding displays of full-back Sean O’Connor and Mark O’Keeffe dampened their enthusiasm with some robust defending.
After going 18 minutes without a score Rovers were given a ray of hope with six minutes remaining.
Cian O’Connor gathered a loose ball before unleashing an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net and when the same player drilled over a point a minute later the deficit was reduced to three points, 1-15 to 1-12.
When the going got tough the tough got going, however, as Fr O’Neill’s produced four quality points from play.
A Paddy McMahon point in the 62nd minute was sheer class that was followed by a Kevin O’Sullivan white flag.
Despite winning without three quality players Fr O’Neill's will have to do it all again against Kanturk on Sunday, hoping to atone for last season's defeat to Charleville.