Fr O’Neills beat Erin’s Own to reclaim title

FR O’NEILLS reclaimed the East Cork Junior Hurling A Championship title in spectacular fashion at Killeagh yesterday when, after a final packed with thrills, spills and no little heartbreak, they withstood a ferocious late rally from Erin’s Own to finish on the right side of a 1-11 to 2-4 scoreline.

To say conditions were bad would be an understatement they were atrocious as the rain that poured on to the neatly manicured surface of the Killeagh pitch left it like a skating rink although there was not a patch of mud in sight.

Erin's Own might blame the slippery surface for an avalanche of wides that could have cost them a long overdue divisional title they hit six in the first half and added on another nine in the second but the fact of the matter is that many of them were from scoreable frees.

Fr O'Neills, who won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002 and were shocked by Sarsfields in last year's final, were more economical with the chances that fell their way, particularly in the first half when falling rain made scoring difficult.

The only time they trailed was after three minutes when John Corcoran opened the scoring with a point for Erin's Own. It may have taken Fr O'Neills all of five minutes to register their first score which came in the form of a Ger O'Leary free, but they proceeded to build on this and were 0-7 to 0-3 in front at half time.

In between, they suffered a huge loss when wing-back Ray O'Neill had to leave the field with a recurrence of an old collarbone injury after 15 minutes of brilliance. He was the star in a sturdy defence that kept the Erin's Own forwards under pressure at all times and his clearances resulted in some lively attacking movements that yielded scores such as Eddie Holland's 12th minute point that gave them a three point cushion.

While his attacking runs were missed, the vacancy on the half-back line was adequately filled by wing-forward Ger O'Leary after substitute John Flavin was brought in at full-forward and Colin Buckley switched to the half-forward line.

They were aided by a struggling Erin's Own attack that found it impossible to penetrate the defence. Erin's Own's second point came in the 16th minute right after O'Neill had left the field and Sean Kelly eventually found the target but they had to wait until just before half time for a third.

Quick points by Eddie Holland and Paudge Butler on the resumption appeared to have Fr O'Neills coasting and substitute John Flavin had them 0-10 to 0-4 in front after 40 minutes. But that is when Erin's Own hit a high note.

They had changed both midfielders at half time and it was one of the replacements, Mike Murphy, who lobbed the ball into the Fr O'Neills' goalmouth.

Dave Dorgan, who played brilliantly to keep a clean sheet, had it well covered but he slipped, lost possession and corner forward, Sean Kelly, hammered the sliotar to the net to leave just a goal between the sides with 41 minutes gone.

Four minutes later the ball was in the Fr O'Neills' net once again and the sides were level. Throughout the afternoon the Erin's Own corner forward, Sean Kelly, was not given the proverbial inch by John O'Mahony but when the ball was driven across the goalmouth he was running on to it from the right wing and he gave Dave Dorgan no chance.

With the two substitutes Mike Murphy and Killian Murphy winning plenty of possession for Erin's Own the signs were ominous but the Fr O'Neills' defence regrouped, Erin's Own forwards missed some golden opportunities and then, with three minutes of normal time remaining, John Flavin put Fr O'Neills ahead again from long range.

And three minutes of injury time had been played when their goal came. It was no fault of goalkeeper, Alan Bowen, who had a great game. He saved the ball and was rushing out to clear it when he slipped on the surface and Fr O'Neills' substitute, Robert Murphy, blasted it to the net to put the issue beyond doubt.

Scorers Fr O'Neills: G. O'Leary 0-4 (0-2 frees), J. Flavin 0-3, R. Murphy 1-0, E. Holland and P. Butler 0-2 each.

Erin's Own: J. Corcoran 1-2 (0-2 frees), S. Kelly 1-1, M. Murphy 0-1.

FR O'NEILLS: D. Dorgan; B. O'Driscoll, D. O'Neill, J. O'Mahony; R. O'Neill, B. O'Callaghan, B. Murphy; C. Mellerick, J. Holland; G. O'Leary, Q. Higgins, E. Holland; P. Butler, C. Buckley, K. Wall. Subs: J. Flavin for R. O'Neill, E. McCarthy for K. Wall; R. Murphy for P. Butler; E. Griffin for C. Mellerick; C. Mellerick for E. Holland.

ERIN'S OWN: A. Bowen; D. Dennehy, T. O'Keeffe, D. Mulcahy; T. Hickey, M. Finn, J. Geary; O. Harrington, M. Mulcahy; B. Murphy, D. O'Flynn, J. Corcoran; S. Kelly, P. Geasley, K. Murphy. Subs: K. Murphy for O. Harrington; M. Murphy for M. Mulcahy; R. Coakley for J. Corcoran; P. Murphy for T. O'Keeffe.

Referee: Denis O'Leary (Watergrasshill).

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