Over the years, some outstanding teams have claimed the Seamus Long Cup, and on Saturday night in Páirc Uí Rinn, Fr O’Neill’s joined this illustrious group. They gave an awesome display of hurling and it brought a fitting end to their Cork Premier IHC season as they were full value for the triumph.
This decider was whittled down to two very proud hurling clubs. Kilworth just coming up short against a majestic outfit who were tipped from early on in the year for silverware and lived up to that billing.
It is simply phenomenal they should win the Premier intermediate title a mere three years after being promoted to the ranks.
Goals were the knockout blows. The first arrived midway through the opening half, another immediately after the interval and the third 10 minutes from the end that signalled the point of no return.
The north Cork side rallied each time and their character could never be questioned but very few teams would have matched the speed, power and skill shown by Fr O’Neill’s.
It left the massive crowd with so much to talk about. There was Ger Millerick’s excellence in defence, Joe Millerick and Kevin O’Sullivan’s grip around the middle, and the effectiveness of Declan Dalton once again (1-11) and Billy Dunne up front. These were just some of the topics up for discussion.
Once Fr O’Neill’s got to terms with the way Kilworth set up - they had Dave Twomey playing deep in an effort to cut off the supply - they set about overturning a 0-5 to 0-3 deficit to take the lead on the quarter-hour mark.
This came in the form of their opening goal, with Dalton blasting home a penalty after he was fouled himself – the full-forward had a terrific battle with Kieran Lane. They stitched the next nine points to Kilworth’s one and also had a goal disallowed.
Dalton’s magnificent points were from a variety of angles and distances, while Joe Millerick and O’Sullivan shared five between them. Kilworth were under huge pressure and badly needed something to happen. The boost they required was delivered by Eoin Carey who, after being put through by Eoin McGrath, dodged a couple of defenders to register a goal in the 28th minute.
It was the tonic they needed even if Fr O’Neill’s remained in the driving seat, 1-14 to 1-8 — crucially the Avondhu side were back in the game at the half-way stage.
The positivity didn’t last long because when the action resumed, Fr O’Neill’s scored a second goal, this time Paudie McMahon provided the finish after good approach work by Dunne and Mark O’Keeffe. The gap stretched to 10 points on 40 minutes.
Fr O’Neill’s were beginning to push for home.
Noel McNamara kept popping over frees for Kilworth, and to their enormous credit, they had pared down the arrears to seven points at the start of the fourth quarter, the contest far from over.
Fr O’Neill’s turned on the style once more, stamping their authority with goal number three. A well-executed effort from Dunne, and suddenly the margin was back to 10 points, 3-18 to 1-14, and the final 10 minutes to play.
The match petered out to its inevitable conclusion.
Nonetheless, Kilworth kept plugging away and brought the difference down to six.
At the same time, the east Cork management emptied their bench.
The first to give way, and to a tremendous reception, was one of their most dedicated servants, Eoin Conway.
Fr O’Neill’s were home and hosed.
Of the 3-23, 2-16 came from play which is a considerable achievement. They have put up big scores all year, but this was the biggest of all.
Worthy champions indeed.
D Dalton (1-11, 1-0 pen, 0-6 frees, 0-1 65), B Dunne (1-3), P McMahon (1-1), J Millerick (0-3), K O’Sullivan (0-2), M O’Keeffe, E Conway and C Broderick (0-1 each).
N McNamara (0-11, 0-10 frees), E Carey (1-4, 0-2 frees), B Tobin, E McGrath, L Whelan, J Sheehan and W Condon (0-1 each).
C Sloane; M Millerick, Adrian Kenneally, G Millerick; J Barry, D Harrington (Joint-Capt), T Millerick; J Millerick, K O’Sullivan; M O’Keeffe (Joint-Capt), R Cullinane, P McMahon; E Conway, D Dalton, B Dunne.
J Hankard for E Conway (45), P Butler for J Barry (48), Adam Kenneally for Adrian Kenneally (52), L O’Driscoll for J Millerick (55), C Broderick for K O’Sullivan (59).
K Walsh; M McNamara, K Lane (Capt), M O’Connor; N Byrne, D Twomey, A O’Hara; B Tobin, E McGrath; S Keane, L Whelan, E Carey; J Sheehan, N McNamara, W Condon.
P Moakley for S Keane (38), T Twomey for M O’Connor (39 inj), N O’Brien for W Condon (56).
Simon Stokes (Tullylease).