A devastating three-goal burst in the run-up to half-time fired Fr O’Neill’s into the Co-op Superstores Cork SAHC final at the expense of Newcestown in Páirc Uí Rinn today.
O’Neill’s had struggled to find their rhythm in the opening stages, mainly due to Newcestown’s relentless hooking and blocking, and trailed by 1-3 to 0-5 at the water break.
On the resumption, however, they came thundering into the game. Paudie McMahon brought them level, Liam O’Driscoll put them ahead for the first time before their talisman, Declan Dalton, crashed home a 21-yard free to put them in control.
Another O’Driscoll point and a goal from Rob Cullinane doubled their lead before Cian Healy gave Newcestown some respite with a free, their first score in 16 minutes.
Newcestown’s woes were exacerbated by the loss of Colm Dineen to a second yellow card before a Billy Dunne point and Dalton’s second goal left them facing a mountain to climb as they trailed by 3-9 to 1-4 at the break.
Newcestown, who were grieving the loss of their founding member, Jimmy O’Mahony, narrowed the gap after the re-start with scores from Healy and Luke Meade, but O’Neill’s soon put the result beyond doubt.
MacMahon slotted over his second score, Dalton fired over a super point from play before Billy Dunne fed Liam O’Driscoll who goaled from close range and then added a point from the re-start to give the Imokilly side a 4-12 to 1-6 advantage.
Fr O’Neill’s joint-manager, Dave Colbert was thrilled with his sides progression to the final though the way in which his side faded out of the game after O’Driscoll’s 1-1 burst.
“We opened up for about seven or eight minutes and we got the scores we needed at that stage to create a bit of a cushion. We relied on that cushion a bit then in the second half at times but that happens especially when you’re playing against 14 men.
"We’d be honest in saying we didn’t push on in the second-half and we have to work on that, there’s no way we can react like that in a county final and get away with it.” Newcestown outscored their east-Cork rivals by 0-7 to 0-1 don the stretch with Luke Meade, Jack Meade and Conor O’Neill all hurling to a standstill but try as they might, they couldn’t find the goal that would have made matters interesting, though Jack Meade did hit the post twice.
O’Neill’s were thankful for the excellent defending of Mark O’Keeffe and Sean O’Connor and can look forward to a mouth-watering final against Charleville next weekend, a challenge that Colbert is relishing.
“They’re a top-class team, were up senior last year and were unlucky against the Glen and could have stayed up. We know the calibre of team we’re coming up against, there’s no doubt about their quality.”
D Dalton (2-3, 1-2 frees), L O’Driscoll (1-3), R Cullinane (1-0), B Dunne (0-3), P McMahon (0-2), K O’Sullivan and Joe Millerick (0-1 each).
C Healy (1-4, 1-0 pen, 2 frees, 1 ’65), L Meade, J Meade and E Kelly (frees) (0-2 each), C O’Neill (’65), T Twomey and J Kelleher (0-1 each).
C Sloane; M Millerick (J Capt.), S O’Connor, E Motherway; J Barry, M O’Keeffe, T Millerick; K O’Sullivan, Joe Millerick; R Cullinane, P McMahon (J Capt.), J Hankard, L O’Driscoll, D Dalton, B Dunne.
John Millerick for Dunne (blood, 44-46 min), E Conway for Hankard (44 min), P Butler for Motherway (44 min), John Millerick for Joe Millerick (46 min), C Broderick for T Millerick (50 min).
C Wilson; M McSweeney (Capt), C Twomey, N Murray; C O’Neill, L Meade, G O’Donovan; C Dineen, T Twomey; J Meade, J Kelleher, D Twomey; D Buckley, S O’Donovan, C Healy.
S O’Sullivan for D Twomey (h/t), E Kelly for Healy (40 min), Collins for Murray (40 min).
Mark Maher (St Finbarr’s).