No looking back for Fr O'Neill's with happy ending in sight

The East Cork outfit don’t want to get bogged down in talk of their 2020 and 21 final shortcomings
No looking back for Fr O'Neill's with happy ending in sight

Bride Rovers'  William Finnegan shoots despite the attentions of Fr. O'Neill's Ryan Kenneally during the Co-Op Superstores Cork County SAHC semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

Cork Senior A HC semi-final: Fr O’Neill’s 1-24 Bride Rovers 0-16 

Unfinished business for Fr O’Neill’s? Oh you can be sure of it.

Somewhat understandably, though, the East Cork outfit don’t want to get bogged down in talk of their 2020 and 21 final shortcomings and the several ghosts that consequently need burying.

The men from Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge are only looking ahead, they tell us. Glancing in the rearview mirror won’t get them over the line in two weeks’ time.

And how desperate they are to get over the line in a fortnight, how very desperate they are to avoid a third consecutive county final defeat.

That last bit they didn’t tell us. Then again, they didn’t need to, for what player wants to suffer the disappointment of narrowly missing out on promotion to the top-flight of Cork hurling three years running.

“If you are going into a final, you are not going to be thinking about the past or what happened two years ago,” said joint-manager Dave Colbert.

“Each year, you take it on its merits, and this is a new year. There is a drive there, there is an energy there, and we need to keep that going into the final.” 

If nothing else, Fr O’Neills’ consistency and resilience to keep coming back season after season has to be applauded. Getting the job done on the day it matters most is a puzzle they’ve yet to solve, but in terms of piecing together a path to the decider, there are few better.

“They have a savage attitude; they’ll just keep coming back,” Colbert continued.

“They are hard workers and positive fellas. They have been with each other a long time and know each other inside out, they push each other.” 

This latest semi-final victory wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Yes, Fr O’Neill’s were led only twice - in the 21st and 22nd minute - but as we rounded the bend into the final quarter, three in a row from Bride Rovers’ William Finnegan (0-2, one free) and Shane O’Connor reduced their opponents’ lead to the minimum, 0-15 to 0-14.

No opportunity did they get to fashion an equaliser, though, Fr O’Neill’s delivering a 1-4 knockout blow in the space of five minutes to pull 1-19 to 0-14 clear by the 54th minute. The goal was finished by Billy Dunne, his fifth of the championship, with the assist deserving even more of a mention, a beautiful through ball from Cillian Broderick.

Bride Rovers’ Shane O’Connor and Ronan O’Connell sought to stop the bleeding with a pair of white flags, but two wides directly after finished their evening.

Fr O’Neill’s, mind, were nowhere near finished. The winners reeled off five in a row in a dominant closing scene through Declan Dalton (two frees), Kevin O’Sullivan, and subs Eoin Conway and Liam O’Driscoll.

From the 49th minute to the final whistle, Fr O’Neill’s outscored their East Cork rivals by 1-9 to 0-2.

“Ten scorers is good going. We unloaded the bench and got an impact from all of them in terms of scores, assists, and tackles. We have huge reserves on our bench, and it is key that we have that squad that can weather those huge, physical battles.” 

The first half was typical derby fare; tetchy, anxious, and without any bit of flow. The short-passing approach of either side didn’t help either as passes continually broke down, while the respective shooting was also lacking precision (Fr O’Neill’s tallied eight first-half wides to Bride Rovers’ five).

Three on the trot from Kieran Kearney, Patrick O’Flynn, and Daniel Dooley moved Bride Rovers in front for the first time on 21 minutes, but Fr O’Neill’s responded with four on the bounce through Dalton (three frees) and the impressive Jason Hankard to carve out a 0-10 to 0-8 interval advantage.

The job now is to go and get their happy ending in next month’s final against Courcey Rovers.

Scorers for Fr O’Neill’s: D Dalton (0-11, 0-10 frees); B Dunne (1-2); T Millerick (0-3); J Hankard (0-2); D Harrington, K O’Sullivan, John Millerick, Joe Millerick, L O’Driscoll, E Conway (0-1 each).

Scorers for Bride Rovers: W Finnegan (0-4, 0-1 free); A Walsh (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘65), P O’Flynn, S O’Connor (0-2 each); E Roche, K Kearney, D Dooley, R O’Connell, B Roche, C Ryan (0-1 each).

FR O’NEILL’S: P O’Sullivan; M Millerick, S O’Connor, R Kenneally; M O’Keeffe, D Harrington, G Millerick; T Millerick, K O’Sullivan; J Hankard, D Dalton, Joe Millerick; John Millerick, C Broderick, B Dunne.

Subs: P McMahon for Joe Millerick (47 mins); E Motherway for Kenneally (49); L O’Driscoll for John Millerick (57); P Hassett for Hankard (59); E Conway for Dunne (64).

BRIDE ROVERS: C Hogan; T O’Sullivan, S Walsh, J Pratt; P O’Flynn, E Roche, S O’Connor; K Kearney, D Dooley; B Roche, R O’Connell, A Walsh; W Finnegan, C Ryan, C Tobin.

Subs: C O’Connor for Dooley (38); M Collins for A Walsh (43, inj).

Referee: M Maher.

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