Fr O’Neills faced an anxious wait late last night to find out if their bid to have Mark O’Keeffe and Billy Dunne available for the AIB All-Ireland Club IHC final would be successful.
The pair were sent off in the semi-final win over Tooreen and a hearing in Dublin was to determine whether they would be cleared to play against Kilkenny’s Tullaroan in Croke Park on Saturday (6pm).
O’Neills were hopeful that video evidence would show that the players’ infractions only warranted yellow cards, but club chairman Michael Hegarty is keen that, regardless of the outcome, the build-up to the decider isn’t overshadowed.
“We just have one primary school in the parish and there’s a phenomenal buzz and excitement, the same in the two villages, Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge,” he said.
“They took it easy over Christmas, that’s a big commitment. Not alone is it for the current membership of the club but those that have passed to their eternal reward who put great time into this club.
“In rural areas such as this, the GAA is the cornerstone of the parish.
“They’re a right good bunch that stick together, play together and look out for one another. Hopefully the same will pertain next Saturday.”
The Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge club will be joined at GAA headquarters by neighbours Russell Rovers, who play another Kilkenny side, Conahy Shamrocks, in the junior final at 4pm.
Hegarty expects 5,000 attendees claiming a corner of Croke Park for Imokilly and, similarly, Rovers’ coach Noel Furlong is hopeful of a collective strength.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I trained Fr O’Neills a few years ago and my mother is from there, all my cousins are from there.
“It’s amazing for two neighbouring communities, who have a fantastic relationship, you’d think there’d be a rivalry but it’s the opposite.
The Shanagarry/Ballycotton/Garryvoe/Churchtown South club overcame Galway’s Micheál Breathnach after extra time in the semi-final, reward for festive training. “I would say that the application and attitude and the effort over the Christmas was outstanding,” Furlong said.
“The semi-final going to extra time really means the lads are going to be battle-hardened and it’s just about staying fresh from here to the final.”