FOR Fr O’Neills joint-manager Bryan Sweeney, finally reaching the top tier of Cork hurling meant a combination of emotions.
Having begun the game with three unanswered points, the East Cork side were five points down at half-time and facing the possibility of a third straight final defeat. However, a run of 12 straight points put them in the driving seat and they will now look ahead to premier senior.
“It’s a mixture of everything,” Sweeney said. “It’s relief, joy, pride – the overriding thing is just absolute happiness.
“Some of them have been playing on the adult team since they were 16 or 17, so they’re not old players but they have a lot of experience and they deserve it.
“It’s great for the club, too – where once we were a junior club, now we can say that we’re there as a premier senior club, which is a huge achievement.”
At half-time, the deficit was concerning but not a cause for panic.
“Credit to Courceys, our good start didn’t panic them,” Sweeney said.
“Let’s be straight, they worked harder than us and we consider ourselves to be a hardworking team.
“They were getting on the breaks and getting the scores but I don’t think at any stage that we panicked.
“We needed to make some adjustments at half-time and our work-rate really upped. The breaks that we weren’t getting in the first half, we began to get those. We were getting men around the ball, coming out with those balls and setting up attacks, which was good to see.” Sweeney and fellow co-manager Dave Colbert guided O’Neills to the 2019 Premier IHC when that was the second tier and they returned to the post this year, with Ballinhassig native Niall O’Halloran as coach.
In the moment of joy, the efforts of last year’s management team were at the forefront of his mind, too.
“It’s brilliant and I have to acknowledge the work that was done last year,” he said.
“Micheál [Broderick], Robbie [Dalton], Quentin [Higgins], Luke [Swayne] and everyone involved in that team, they did a lot of work and got to a final.
“It didn’t happen last year but there was a foundation there for us to work on.”