Fr O’Neill’s will appeal the straight red cards issued to joint captain Mark O’Keeffe and Billy Dunne after their All Ireland intermediate hurling club championship semi-final win over Tooreen in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday.
O’Keeffe was sent off six minutes after the resumption and Dunne followed five minutes later, as it stands the pair will miss the All-Ireland final against Tullaroan of Kilkenny in Croke Park on Saturday week.
“I didn’t see any of the incidents, so I am not going to make any comment on them,” said Fr O’Neill’s joint manager Dave Colbert. “But it is hugely disappointing. We will have to look at it and see is there anything that can be done. Two lads missing out on an All-Ireland final puts a damper on it.
“It was an incredible game, especially the way it transpired in the second half. Down to 13 men, against 15 for long parts. I’m fierce proud of them for reacting the way they did.”
At half-time, Fr O’Neill’s were 0-10 to 0-5 up. Declan Dalton, once again, was influential throughout. He scored half of his side’s total in the first 30 minutes — three from play — and top-scored with ten points overall. O’Neill’s started well, going four points to nil ahead and surged 0-10 to 0-3 clear on 25 minutes. Wasteful Tooreen registered the last two scores of the half from Kenny Feeney and Shane Boland — all five of their points coming from frees.
Tooreen manager Paul Hunt admitted they paid a price for their wayward shooting: “We felt if we played, we would ask the questions. Unfortunately in the first half we had a lot of possession but didn’t make enough use of it. Our backs were holding out really well but up the other side we just weren’t getting enough scores.
“The second half they had two sendings off, in one way it was nearly a disadvantage to us. We tried to push more men forward and they were still able to pick off scores whereas we still struggled.
“It was disappointing for us to lose a man when we were coming at Fr O’Neill’s at the end.
“I didn’t see it but I don’t think there was much in it. One of their lads was probably unlucky too to be sent off.”
All the drama unfolded in the second half.
The score was 0-11 to 0-6 when O’Keeffe was red-carded. After Dunne’s dismissal, the Tooreen fightback commenced. Seán Regan had a goal disallowed but when Feeney (who later saw red) found the net in the 54th minute, the deficit was down to two points.
At least eight minutes of additional time was signalled. Not for the first time, the O’Neill’s bench impacted, with Liam O’Driscoll and Cillian Broderick both grabbing vital points.
The result required lots of energy and determination and Dalton, Mike Millerick, joint captain Dan Harrington, and Kevin O’Sullivan were among those who led the way in the dramatic conclusion.
Scorers for Fr O’Neill’s: D Dalton (0-10, 0-7 frees), M O’Keeffe and K O’Sullivan (0-2 each), P McMahon, E Conway, B Dunne, L O’Driscoll and C Broderick (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tooreen: S Boland (0-6 frees), K Feeney (1-2, 0-2 frees), G Nolan, C Freeman, D Huane and F Boland (0-1 each).
FR O'NEILL'S: C Sloane; M Millerick, P Butler, 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.
Subs: L O’Driscoll for E Conway (45), C Broderick for J Millerick (49), J Hankard for R Cullinane (54), S O’Connor for J Barry (55).
TOOREEN: S Lenehan; G Nolan, S Coyne (Capt), C Finn; C Henry, M Morley, D Kenny; C Freeman, D Huane; S Kenny, F Boland, S Regan; S Boland, K Feeney, E Delaney.
Subs: L Lavin for D Huane (25), J Cassidy for S Kenny (55), B Morley for E Delaney (59), D Harrison for B Morley (64 inj).
Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin).