Fourteen-men Fr O’Neill’s upped their performance significantly in the second half to take the crucial points on offer in this Co-Op Superstores Cork SAHC Group C1 at Ballynoe tonight.
In a repeat of last year’s Cork Premier IHC final, the winners had to dig deep as they got nothing easy from Kilworth in the first 30 minutes.
The All-Ireland intermediate club finalists found themselves two points in arrears at the short whistle, but they are an experienced outfit and have been down this road before.
They were also minus a few starters from last season through injury and unavailability, so the nature of the win will be of great satisfaction to management particularly as they lost wingback John Barry to a straight red card in the 39th minute, yet they powered to the finish line getting stronger as the game wore on.
It was a night when many stood up and were counted, and there was plenty of class including their lethal forward duo Billy Dunne and Declan Dalton who bagged 2-11 between them.
Fr O’Neill’s were quickly into their stride with Dalton angling over a second-minute free. This was followed by a Billy Dunne goal, a well-worked effort with Jason Hankard providing the final pass to the corner forward.
Once Noel McNamara opened Kilwoth’s account in the fourth minute from a free, they took control and hit the next seven points without reply. Four of their forwards – McNamara, Will Condon, Eoin Carey and Liam Whelan the providers while midfielder Kevin O’Sullivan also chipped in.
This devastating period came despite losing their centre back Brian Tobin to injury.
Fr O’Neill’s finished the half striking four to Kilworth’s two points, leaving them 1-5 to 0-10 in arrears at the interval.
The Imokilly men restarted purposely and profited from a couple of early points. Mark O’Keeffe’s goal into the top corner five minutes after the resumption drove them on further, 2-7 to 0-11.
In spite of being a man down, they clipped over some magnificent points, the bulk of which came from play. Rob Cullinane and Paudie McMahon were impressive too while they also enjoyed dominance at the back as well.
The Kilworth scores weren’t as plentiful now – only one from play in the third quarter as they failed to make the extra man count.
They did register five points late on but Fr O’Neill’s third goal five minutes from the end of normal time (a bullet from Dalton while surrounded by defenders) put clear distance between the sides.
The other game in the group sees Ballymartle and Bride Rovers clash. Next weekend, Fr O’Neill’s meet Bride Rovers while Ballymartle are up against Kilworth.
D Dalton (1-7, 0-3 frees), B Dunne (1-4), M O’Keeffe (1-0), P McMahon (0-2), R Cullinane (0-2), K O’Sullivan (0-1).
N McNamara (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45), E Carey (0-4, 0-1 free), W Condon (0-3), L Whelan and J Sheehan (0-2 each), B Sheehan and M McNamara (0-1 each).
C Sloane; M Millerick, S O’Connor, E Motherway; J Barry, D Harrington, T Millerick; K O’Sullivan, M O’Keeffe; J Hankard, P McMahon (J-Capt), R Cullinane; B Dunne, D Dalton, J Millerick.
E Conway for J Hankard (half time).
K Walsh; M McNamara, N Byrne, E McGrath; J McCarthy, B Tobin, A O’Hara; J Saich, B Sheehan; E Carey, T Twomey, L Whelan (Capt); P Moakley, N McNamara, W Condon.
D Twomey for B Tobin (15 inj), J Sheehan for T Twomey (36).
Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers).