O’Neill’s too hot to handle

TWO goals in four second-half minutes swung this tense Premier 2 Central Region county final in favour of Fr. O’Neill’s at Páirc Uí Rinn last night.

And despite a spirited effort from Valley Rovers they couldn’t claw their way back into the game.

After a relatively even opening 40 minutes Fr. O’Neill’s found an extra gear to strike an astounding 2-4 to no score in the last 20 minutes to run out convincing winners.

There were some nerves on show early on with both teams failing to produce the quality of hurling that had qualified them for the final. Neither team was able to lift the tempo of the tie nor string cohesive moves together as both defences seemed to have the edge on their opposition.

Rovers’ midfielder Joseph Lynch broke the deadlock after five minutes with a fine effort, before Liam O’Driscoll levelled the scores from a free. As Lynch and his centre field partner Darragh Murphy gained the upper hand, Rovers enjoyed some concerted pressure which produced three quick points to separate the sides with 20 minutes on the clock.

Rovers looked to assert their greater physicality throughout but showed poor discipline to allow Fr. O’Neill’s back into the game with two more O’Driscoll frees. Encouraged by these easy scores O’Neill’s gained some belief and hit three points to take the lead for the first time on 27 minutes before a Jason Crowley free ensured parity at half time, 0-6 apiece.

It was Valley Rovers who struck the game’s first goal when Gary Farrell reacted quickest when O’Neill’s keeper could only bat away a Crowley free. However, rather than push on from this score Rovers seemed to lose their edge.

Sensing their opportunity Fr O’Neills hit back with a fantastic goal when David O’Driscoll gathered a Joe Mellerick long ball before smashing his shot into the top right hand corner. Mellerick again turned provider on 50 minutes when his dropping ball was collected by Shane Lee who blasted home to open up a 6 point lead.

A huge free from the tireless O’Driscoll extended the gap as O’Neill’s refused to give their opponents a sniff of a comeback. Padraig McMahon was on target from a sideline cut and fittingly it was O’Driscoll who finished the scoring with an outstanding point cementing Fr O’Neill’s status as champions.

Scorers for Fr O’Neill’s: L O’Driscoll 0-7 (5fs), S Lee and D O’Driscoll 1-1 each, D Sexton 0-2, D O’Flynn, R Cullinane and P McMahon 0-1 each.

Scorers for Valley Rovers: J Crowley 0-6 (5fs), G Farrell 1-1, J Lynch 0-1.

FR O’NEILL’S: E O’Neill; A Kenneally, W Lane, D McCarthy; K Hegarty, T Motherway, M O’Keeffe; J Mellerick, D O’Flynn; D Sexton, L O’Driscoll, S Lee; P McMahon, R Cullinane, D O’Driscoll.

VALLEY ROVERS: C O’Sullivan; J Lynch, T Cummins, D Healy; A Walsh, J Cottrell, A McCarthy; D Murphy, J Lynch; E Fallon, G Farrell, J Crowley; T Lehane, D Canty, T O’Brien.

Subs: Tim Casey for J Lynch (49).

Referee: David Copps (Ballyhea).

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