Fr O’Neills 3-23
If Fr O’Neills are carrying the scars of losing the last two Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC finals, they are certainly hiding them well.
At Caherlag yesterday, the Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side showed that the form which had them challenging for a RedFM Hurling League Division 1 final spot was not a mirage as they had 16 points to spare against the 2020 Premier IHC champions, Blarney.
Leading by 0-13 to 0-9 at half-time after a strong finish to the first half, the margin had been cut slightly in the opening nine minutes of the second period before Billy Dunne intercepted a loose Blarney defensive pass and fired to the net for a 1-16 to 0-13 lead.
Though Blarney replied with points from Peter Philpott and Mark Coleman (free), O’Neills tacked on another goal as the excellent Kevin O’Sullivan and Paudie McMahon linked for Declan Dalton to slot home. Blarney’s Shane Barrett was sent off shortly after that for an off-the-ball tangle – much to the chagrin of the player and the Mid-Cork side, already aggrieved with a 10-2 first-half free count – and O’Neills made hay while the sun shone, using their human resource advantage to good effect as they outscored their opponents by 1-7 to 0-2 for the remainder.
The East Cork side will look ahead with anticipation to a clash with last year’s PIHC winners Courcey Rovers next week and there were a lot of positives to take, once a slow start – contributing to ten first-half wides – was worked out of their system.
Dalton finished with 1-10, a constant threat when moved to the full-forward line in the second half, while Dunne had 2-4, all scored after half-time. At midfield, O’Sullivan linked well with Ger Millerick while Rob Cullinane’s hardworking shift at wing-forward was a big asset and Dan Harrington led the defence well.
Blarney will feel that the final scoreline didn’t do them justice, though the game had begun to swing even before the dismissal of Barrett. In the first half, they had a strong middle period as a 0-3 to 0-1 deficit was turned into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead, with Pádraig Power and Denis McSweeney looking lively in attack, Michael John Shine tidy in defence and Peter Philpott doing a good job at centre-back as he tried to curb Dalton.
Two Dalton frees and a Ger Millerick point had O’Neills back level, though the wind behind them was a hindrance as much as a help in terms of shooting. They had three wides in a row with the game tied at 0-9 as the 30-minute mark approached but a great Mark O’Keeffe point was followed by O’Sullivan’s third, well set up by Dunne.
Dunne and Cullinane combined for O’Sullivan’s fourth and Dalton’s free after he had been fouled sent them in four tot the good.
Blarney moved Mark Coleman from midfield to half-forward for the second half, swapping with Barrett, and Eoghan Kirby set up Peter Crowley for an early point before Barrett assisted Coleman, who cut the gap to two.
Dalton, Dunne and Cullinane eased O’Neills five clear again and, though Coleman and Barrett left a goal in it, the goal when it came was at the other end as Dunne showed good alertness.
The second, from Dalton, opened up a seven-point advantage and he almost had another just after the red card as he poked the ball past Eoin O’Neill only for Shine and Paul O’Leary to clear off the line.
Twice more late on, Dalton went close – denied by O’Neill and later hitting the post – while at the other end, Paudie O’Sullivan saved well from Power as Blarney looked for something that would at least staunch the scoring-difference flow. They will look to regroup ahead of a meeting with Killeagh next week.
D Dalton 1-10 (0-8 f), B Dunne 2-4, K O’Sullivan 0-4, M O’Keeffe 0-2, G Millerick, R Cullinane, J Hankard 0-1 each.
M Coleman 0-5 (0-4 f), P Power 0-3, D McSweeney 0-2, A McEvoy, C Power, P Philpott, P Crowley, S Barrett, C Barrett 0-1 each.
P O’Sullivan; R Kenneally, S O’Connor, M Millerick; T Millerick, D Harrington, M O’Keeffe; G Millerick, K O’Sullivan; R Cullinane, D Dalton, P McMahon; B Dunne, C Broderick, John Millerick.
J Hankard for Broderick (47), Joe Millerick for O’Sullivan (57, injured), Broderick for T Millerick (59).
E O’Neill; MJ Shine, P O’Leary, A McEvoy; C Power, P Philpott, J Jordan; M Coleman, P Crowley; S Barrett, S Crowley, P Power; E Kirby, D McSweeney, C Barrett.
M O’Leary for S Crowley (38), C McCarthy for Kirby (41), D Walsh for P Crowley (52).
S Scanlon (Newcestown).