Resilient Fr O'Neill's will keep coming back - O'Sullivan and Co. ready for latest county final 

Unbowed, Fr O’Neill’s have weaved a path to a third consecutive Cork Senior A decider, which they’ll contest, against Courcey Rovers, this Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh (4pm).
Resilient Fr O'Neill's will keep coming back - O'Sullivan and Co. ready for latest county final 

READY FOR BATTLE: Kevin O'Sullivan, Fr. O'Neills, at the Co-Op Superstores Cork Hurling Championship Final lineups at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

It is a group containing the Glen Rovers hurlers, the St Michael’s footballers, the Cloyne class of the mid-noughties, and Clyda’s premier intermediates from later that decade.

It is a group Fr O’Neill’s are desperate to avoid joining.

What binds these club teams together is their misfortune - a misfortune more recent for some than others - in having lost three consecutive Cork county finals.

So, what have Fr O’Neill’s done to come to the attention of the group’s membership officer?

The men from Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge contested the inaugural Cork Senior A hurling final two years ago this month. But despite hitting four goals and holding a nine-point interval lead, they finished one shy of opponents Charleville.

Back they came in 2021, the concluding day of action again reached. On this occasion, the absence of injured top-scorer Declan Dalton and not being able to start fellow Cork senior Ger Millerick, who himself was just on the way back from injury, contributed to a seven-point defeat at the hands of Kanturk.

Unbowed, Fr O’Neill’s have weaved a path to a third consecutive Cork Senior A decider, which they’ll contest, against Courcey Rovers, this Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh (4pm).

Speaking to joint-manager Dave Colbert after their 11-point semi-final win over Bride Rovers, his words were focused on the present. Very little interest was there in raking over past setbacks.

The same rang true when chatting midfielder Kevin O’Sullivan at the county final press day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh a couple of days later.

O’Sullivan, who has been around the panel since 2014, was their top-scorer in last year’s county final defeat. But neither last year’s loss, nor the 2020 result, will fuel their efforts this weekend, he said.

“You are fueled every night you go training. Hopefully, we can draw on the big-game experience we have, but there is a fire there every night we go training, so that is what we draw on.” 

How about a sense of unfinished business then?

“I wouldn’t say there is unfinished business. We have a new management team, it is a new year, there are new goals, and so we are just taking it on the year that is.” 

Where there was momentary reference to past campaigns was in O’Sullivan’s remarks about the collective resolve and resilience of this Fr O’Neill’s group to keep returning to the final season after season after season.

“There is a savage bunch of lads there. They are the most hard-working fellas you could hope to play with. And they’ll keep coming back no matter what.” 

Premier Intermediate champions in 2019, the following year’s county championship restructure and the new second-tier Senior A grade it created, meant promotion to the top table of Cork hurling was not afforded to Fr O’Neill’s.

Having been crowned Cork U21 champions a year prior to their premier intermediate win, O’Sullivan says there is a group of players there who “deserve” to play at the highest level.

“We have a bunch of players that will hopefully get to play at the top level in Cork. That is where we want to be, that is where they deserve to be.” 

Of course, a good chunk of them already have tasted top level fare in the colours of Imokilly, with the likes of Dalton, Millerick, and Mark O’Keeffe featuring across the East Cork division’s three-in-a-row success from 2017-19.

A different kind of three-in-a-row they do not want this Sunday.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub


Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub


Execution Time: 0.246 s