Until the mid-1990s, Killeagh and Fr O’Neills vied for East Cork junior A hurling glory.
The clubs never met in a divisional decider, though, and while O’Neills contested five finals between 1961 and 1992, it wasn’t until 1996 – the year after Killeagh’s county junior win – that the Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side put their name on the Jamesy Kelleher Cup.
Killeagh made it senior level with their 2001 county IHC victory and four years after that, Fr O’Neills claimed Imokilly and county junior glory before going on to add Munster and All-Ireland titles.
In 2007, the intermediate championship was won by the men in green and red, though by that stage the premier intermediate championship had come into being. After a few seasons in the second tier, they were relegated but made the IHC final again at the first attempt, only to lose out to Bandon, the side that they had beaten four years previously.
They continued to compete, though, and won that championship again in 2016, going on to challenge at premier level almost immediately. They won the PIHC in 2019, but unfortunately for them that was at the exact time that the championships were being restructured and so they found themselves in the new senior A grade.
The 2019 season proved to be Killeagh’s last at senior level as they too were placed in the SAHC for 2020. O’Neills made it to the final that first year, losing to Charleville, and for 2021 they were drawn in the same group as Killeagh.
O’Neills won that match and once again they made it to the final, this time beaten by Kanturk. For 2022, the two East Cork clubs were again drawn together and they met in the final group game as O’Neills made it three wins from three to advance to the semi-finals and send Killeagh to the relegation play-ff in the process.
Killeagh won that game against Ballymartle while O’Neills made it third time lucky in finals, seeing off Courcey Rovers in the decider to finally make it to the top tier of Cork hurling.
Their success had been underpinned in part by a strong RedFM Hurling League campaign last year, earning a spot in Division 1 of the reformatted competition for 2023, while Killeagh also booked a place in the top grade.
On Saturday at 3pm, the clubs meet at Páirc Uí Chinnéide in Killeagh, with O’Neills in a higher championship grade than their hosts for the first time. They have carried their good form into the new year, picking up two wins and a draw with just one loss in their opening four games, while Killeagh are still looking for their first points.
The current round of top-flight league fixtures begins tomorrow night as Douglas – a win and three draws from four games – welcome Carrigtwohill. On Friday, table-toppers Sarsfields will look to make it five wins from five when they host Na Piarsaigh, who are level in second place on five points with Fr O’Neills, Douglas and Blackrock.
Blackrock are in action on Sunday morning when they travel to face Kanturk while the other game that day sees Erin’s Own up against Charleville.
Ballygiblin v Aghada (7.15pm).
Douglas v Carrigtwohill.
Courcey Rovers v St Finbarr’s, Bishopstown v Glen Rovers (7.15pm).
Bandon v Inniscarra (7.15pm).
Kildorrery v Youghal (7.30pm).
Sarsfields v Na Piarsaigh.
Castlemartyr v Russell Rovers, Midleton v Mayfield (7.15pm).
Glen Rovers v Erin’s Own (7.30pm), Ballinascarthy v Kilshannig (7.45pm).
Killeagh v Fr O’Neills.
Mallow v Ballincollig (6.30pm), Fermoy v Newtownshandrum (7pm).
Blackrock v Ballymartle, Bandon v Carrigaline (4pm), Castlelyons v Blarney (4pm).
Cloyne v Lisgoold (7pm), Milford v Ballyhea (7pm), St Catherine’s v Aghabullogue (7.30pm).
Ballygiblin v Argideen Rangers (2pm).
Ballygarvan v Sarsfields, Barryroe v Na Piarsaigh, Tracton v Douglas.
Ballinora v Nemo Rangers, Valley Rovers v St Finbarr’s.
Erin’s Own v Charleville, Kanturk v Blackrock.
Newcestown v Éire Óg.
Ballinhassig v Valley Rovers, 11.30am.
Cloughduv v Aghada, Dungourney v Watergrasshill.
Kilbrittain v Meelin.