BEATEN finalists in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Senior A Hurling Championship in 2020 and 2021, Fr O’Neills have bounced back strongly this year.
The Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side topped their group and took one of the automatic semi-final spots, with Bride Rovers their opponents in Páirc Uí Chaoimh tomorrow night (7.30pm).
Wins over Blarney, Courcey Rovers and Killeagh allowed O’Neills to bypass the quarter-final stage and Dave Colbert, joint-manager with Bryan Sweeney, is confident that they have made good use of their extra time off.
“There’s for and against it when you get to this stage,” he says.
“People will say that you’re better off playing a quarter-final and others will say you’re better to have the break, but either way, the two teams going into it are going to be prepared.
“There are good coaching teams there and the strength and conditioning people take over and map it out either way. We’re happy going into it that we’ll have prepared well and hopefully that’ll be enough.
“It was a very competitive group, so we were happy to come out of it.
“We got some very good games out of it and were able to test ourselves. It was very good to come through a group like that.
“It’s always good to finish top of the group and make it through to the semi-finals, you’d never be unhappy with that.
“It gives you an extra bit of time to work on things. It was a good group campaign this year.”
Last year, O’Neills had to deal with injuries to key men Declan Dalton and Ger Millerick but both are available this time around, though Rob Cullinane is out after picking up a long-term injury against Killeagh.
Making it back here shows the character of the group and now to challenge is to push on again.
“That’s a really positive sign of the group,” Colbert says.
“They work hard and they deal with setbacks and they move on from them and drive on again.
“That’s definitely been a positive, the way lads have worked hard and tried to move on again this year.”
Bride topped their group before recording an impressive win over Cloyne in the quarter-finals, with Adam Walsh, Cillian Tobin and Brian Roche all among the scores.
That tie is preceded by tonight’s meeting of Courcey Rovers and Fermoy in the Páirc (7.30pm). Along with O’Neills, Fermoy also moved straight to the semi-finals, having beaten Cloyne, Newcestown and Mallow.
Fermoy have benefited from a strong ensemble cast, with Jake Carr, Liam Coleman, Shane Aherne and Darragh Daly all contributing key scores at vital times. Their Ballinspittle/Ballinadee opponents finished second to O’Neills in the group stage, having come out on top against Blarney in a final-round winner-take-all tie.
Seán Twomey scored two vital goals in that game and in the quarter-finals they came out on the right side of an 0-17 to 0-16 scoreline against Ballyhea, with Richard Sweetnam contributing 12 of their points.
Tadhg O’Sullivan, goalkeeper Stephen Nyhan and DJ Twomey are other key men for last year’s Premier IHC winners.