While losing the last two Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC finals has been disappointing for Fr O’Neills, they are channelling their frustrations in the right way.
On Sunday in Caherlag, they showed that they are likely to be in the mix again as they opened with a 3-23 to 0-16 win against Blarney, with Declan Dalton scoring 1-10 while Billy Dunne notched 2-4.
This year has seen Dave Colbert and Bryan Sweeney – in charge for the victory in the ‘old’ Premier IHC in 2019 – return to the helm, with Ballinhassig native Niall O’Halloran in as coach, having previous enjoyed success with Bandon and Éire Óg.
Colbert feels that one the panel’s strengths is the ability to bounce back stronger.
“They’re a great group of fellas,” he said, “they bring huge drive to it themselves.
“The enthusiasm and everything, it doesn’t drop – they’re young too, maybe that’s part of it.
“They just move on and get on with things. We’re just focused now on this year’s competition and trying to get out of this bloody group.”
On Sunday, the first half was fairly nip and tuck before O’Neills scored four late points to go with a 0-13 to 0-9 advantage. The two goals put them in control, with Blarney finishing with 14 players and unable to claw back the deficit.
“It took us a while to get going,” Colbert said.
“Blarney hit us with everything in the first 15 minutes and we were kind of slow off the mark, probably.
“We came into it then and played some very good stuff for a period of around 20 minutes and pulled away a bit.
“The year that we went up, we played them in a semi-final and they gave us a fair rattle that day.
“They’re a top side and we’d just be happy in ourselves that, when we had to lift it, we did lift it.
“When they got going, they were good and you’d be hoping that we’d improve on that.
“The first ten minutes, if you started like that again you mightn’t get away with it whereas today we did.
“There were a lot of wides in the first half from us and we wouldn’t be happy with that.
“Again, we’re conscious that this is only the first group game. It’s a marathon of a yoke.”
Next up for O’Neills is a clash with last year’s Premier IHC winners Courcey Rovers, who took the step up to the second tier in their stride at the weekend as they beat Killeagh.
Colbert knows that something similar will be required if they are to make it two from two.
“It’ll be a tough game again,” he said.
“They’ve come up as well – you’ve a lot of teams, ourselves, Courceys and Blarney, who’ve come up in the last few years, all form teams and great hype in all the clubs.
“It’ll be a challenge again and we’ll have to lift it.”