He explained: “I don’t profess to have all the answers.
“I make mistakes but it’s all about learning from them and improving that matters.”
Thirteen years ago, O’Neill was in charge of Clonakilty when they failed to Laune Rangers in a Munster club final in Killarney. Tomorrow, O’Neill faces another Kerry outfit, Kerins O’Rahillys, in provincial battle. And memories of the loss to the Killorgin will be rekindled before throw in.
O’Neill recalled: “That day in Killarney we had enough chances to win, but did put sufficient scores on the board, which is what matters most. Apart from myself and Padraig Griffin, there aren’t too many links between the 1996 team and the present one, but that shouldn’t prevent us from learning from our mistakes of the past.”
It’s been six weeks since the Cork decider and Clon’s one-point victory over St Finbarr’s. Apart from a county league final against Carbery Rangers, it has been problematic for O’Neill to source quality matches in preparation for tomorrow’s clash.
“We certainly enjoyed the Cork success and took a week off to celebrate. We had qualified for the Kelleher Shield (Co. League) final and we used that to launch our preparations for the Munster club campaign, but unfortunately we lost out to Carbery Rangers (1-9 to 0-9) which was a setback.
“That defeat was a wake up, and the lads have trained well since and we are looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge. You never like losing, but the league final gave us the chance to test some fringe players. I certainly won’t be offering losing to Carbery Rangers as an excuse if we’re beaten tomorrow.
“Apart from Nemo Rangers, clubs in Cork don’t get the chance too often to compete at this level and to build on winning the county championship. Thankfully we are in this position and intent to give it our very best shot. Of course I’m concerned about the gap between the county final and tomorrow’s match, but look at the position our opponents were in last Sunday.”
Ah yes. Kerins O’Rahillys won the Kerry senior club championship early last month and with it the right to represent the county in the Munster club in the event of a divisional side winning the county championship proper. South Kerry duly did that when the defeated Dr Crokes on Sunday.
O’Neill admits the system is confusing: “Thirty seconds before the final whistle in the Kerry county final, Kerins O’Rahilly’s didn’t know if they would be playing us or not, and they weren’t even involved in that final. I would have thought Dr Crokes would go on to contest the Munster club because divisional teams can’t. That’s what would have happened in Cork if the situation arose.”
Despite their strange build up, Kerins O’Rahillys wouldn’t be taken lightly by O’Neill.
“Twelve months ago Nemo were put to the pin of their collar to see off the O’Rahillys’ challenge and I’m expecting a similar challenge tomorrow. They have a lot of big name players, players who have worn the county jersey in all grades, and with home advantage, will be well up for this game.
“It’s likely to be Tommy Walsh’s last game for his club for some time and he’ll be very keen to go out on a winning note. When you add in the likes of David Moran, Declan Quill, and Walsh’s younger brother Barry John, they are a very formidable outfit and we’ll have play to the peak of our powers to get the result.”
O’Neill will be using lessons from the recent and distant past to motivate his men.
“Thirteen years ago against Laune Rangers we performed well in the final but didn’t get enough scores to win. If we go to Tralee tomorrow and perform as well as we can I’ll be happy but there will be nothing worse driving back from Tralee on Sunday evening if we haven’t performed.
“In the Cork final Clon played well for three quarters of an hour, but were fortunate to survive a great comeback by the Barrs. It appeared players felt the game was won when we went eight points ahead. That is a lesson: games are never over until the final whistle. As Cork champions we are conscious of our responsibilities to our county, but more importantly to ourselves. This is our chance to compete on the big stage and we don’t want to blow it.”