The number 14 led the way with an outstanding 1-8 – his goal from a free on the brink of half-time was priceless as it cut the deficit to one point. The Imokilly men proceeded to dominate the second 30 minutes of this replayed final, and towards the end they had the ability to withstand late Kildorrery pressure.
Fr O’Neill’s were the last club from their division to win the Paddy Walsh Cup in 2007, and while there wasn’t much between the sides in the early stages – they were level four times – make no mistake about it this team is here to stay. It was a marvellous performance, and the contribution of their U21 players was significant. And with a county Premier U21 semi-final looming, this was a timely boost.
Fr O’Neill’s manager Noel Furlong lauded his players and had special mention for Dalton.
“Down four points in the first-half, it looked dodgy. But our fellas, like they have done all year, dug it out. Different players stood up. The lads knew they had to go deeper than they had all year. We see guys there, 19, 20 years old, turn into men today.
“We give Deccie (Dalton) no instructions. If he feels confident enough that he can get it; he is allowed go for it. Make no bones about it, we needed that goal because the momentum of the game was going against us. He is a big player for the big occasion. His two sideline balls were phenomenal.”
Kildorrery, who won the JAHC in 2012, led 1-8 to 1-7 at half-time. A six-point haul from Peter O’Brien (0-4 frees) and a goal from Shane O’Neill giving them the narrowest of leads. While the contest took time to ignite, O’Neill’s goal (great vision initially by James O’Sullivan and Sean Kelly) on 29 minutes was the first decisive move of the half, giving the north Cork side a four-point cushion.
But, the match swung dramatically in O’Neill’s favour when Dalton bravely blasted a free to the net three minutes into the four minutes of additional time. His powerful drive was a huge boost as they headed to the changing-rooms.
William Fuohy extended the Kildorrery lead moments after the restart, but Fr O’Neill’s found another gear. Eight points they flashed over to establish a 1-15 to 1-10 gap at the end of a massively productive third quarter. Along with Dalton who sliced over a sublime line ball from around 50 yards, Eoin Conway, Podge Butler, Robert Cullinane and Thomas Millerick were in the thick of the action.
However, at the other end, there was very little space given to Kildorrery. Closed down; time and time again, while Ger O’Leary – like he did in the drawn game - cleared an amount of ball.
Kildorrery were relying on Peter O’Brien for frees. And yet, with eight minutes to go they were still in contention, only three points adrift. But, they never reached the heights of a week earlier.
O’Neill’s stretched the lead to five points once more with three minutes left. Peter O’Brien gave Kildorrery a chance with a pair of frees, 1-17 to 1-14. Meanwhile, Paudie Higgins did well to control the sliotar in a nervy final passage of play. He also denied Finbarr Stapleton as time ticked away. So too, centre-back Adrian Kenneally who intercepted another vital shot Fittingly it was Dalton who had the final say with a resplendent sideline cut. It was like the one he posted earlier, but from the other side.
D Dalton (1-8, 0-5 frees, 0-2 sl), E Conway (0-3), P Butler and T Millerick (0-2 each), E Motherway, B Dunne and L O’Driscoll (0-1 each).
P O’Brien (0-10, 0-8 frees), S O’Neill (1-0), F Stapleton (0-2), W Fuohy and D Kelly (0-1 each).
P Higgins; J Barry, M O’Keeffe, G O‘Leary; M Millerick, A Kenneally, B Murphy; T Millerick, N Griffin; P Butler, E Conway, L O’Driscoll; B Dunne, D Dalton, E Motherway.
R Cullinane for N Griffin (37), K O’Sullivan for E Motherway (50), S O’Connor for B Murphy (52).
J McEniry; S Kelly, S Fitzgerald, C Ó Baoil; T Monaghan, M Walsh, S Coughlan; J O’Sullivan, F Stapleton; W Fuohy, P O’Brien, D Kelly; S O’Neill, A O’Brien, E O’Connor.
J McCarthy for S O’Neill (40), J Gorman for S Coughlan (50).
Nathan Wall (Carrigaline).