Scintillating hurling as Bandon sparkle and reach county final
Majestic Burke point seals it, as better balanced Bandon survive after tense finale! What a fantastic game of scintillating, non-stop and thrilling hurling Bandon and Kanturk served up to a captivated and enthralled attendance at a pristine Coachford venue on Sunday afternoon last, in the semi-final of the Cork intermediate hurling championship.
With the clock having ticked over into second half injury-time, stalwart Bandon wing back Kieran Hurley won a great ball under intense pressure deep in his own half of the pitch. Unleasing a mammoth delivery into enemy territory, his precise pass saw Donncha Burke embark on a searing solo run, drawing a defender with a deft side-step before blasting over a sublime score from an acute angle for the vital 'insurance' point.
The score could not have come at a more opportune time for the Lily Whites, lifting the intense pressure that plucky Kanturk had imposed on their opponents as they strove might and main in the last quarter to snatch the game out of the fire.
Even then brave Kanturk, who had drawn intense inspiration in the closing half from the scoring heroics and fabulous stickwork of Cork minor football star Aidan Walsh, who turned in a last thirty minutes of Titanic proportions notching a magnificent six points' personal total during this rosy spell, refused to capitulate. Throwing caution to the wind, they launched one massive assault on the Bandon citadel. Latching on to a superb ball from midfielder John Healy, Lorcán McLoughlin, the Cork minor dual star sent Walsh on his way.
From some thirty metres, the latter blasted a rasper that looked destined for the top of the Bandon net. However, Bandon had no intention of bowing the knee at this terminal stage of the proceedings and able goalie John Crowley brought off a splendid save from point-blank range. Soon afterwards, impartial match official Ger O'Connell from Lisgoold brought down the curtain on a fabulous game of hurling.
It signalled the sea of heartbreak for a young, totally focussed and extremely committed Kanturk pride of hurling lions, a side that contained some marvellous individual performers, but, as a unit, particularly their forwards got little change out of a Bandon team who really bar a spell in the third quarter performed to the pinnacle of their capabilities.
Yes, indeed the Bandon boys are back in town in a big way, having qualified for their first final at this level since way back in 1974, and they now can look forward with confidence to a clash with Fr. O'Neill's on Sunday week next in the decider. In the overall context they were the neater, craftier and more polished outfit, putting some truly delightful scores on the board, some from all of sixty and seventy metres range. However, when Kanturk perform a raw analysis on where it all went wrong, they will have recurring nightmares, particularly reserve Cork goalie Anthony Nash, whose massive pucks were a feature of this thriller, about the concession of the only goal of the game in the 42nd minute.
Having clawed their way back into the match from an interval deficit of 0-11 to 0-7, (indeed it could have been worse had Bandon availed of some of the first half gilt-edged scoring opportunities), two gems from Aidan Walsh, one a sideline from a seemingly impossible acute angle, had cut the Bandon lead to a bare two points' and just eight second half minutes having been played. Then, a powerful delivery from the outstanding Jason Hickey turned their dreams into a disaster scenario.
With Eoin O'Donovan in close proximity, Nash, for some inexplicable reason elected to attempt to collect the dropping ball. To his chagrin and the delight of the big Bandon following, he completed mistimed his effort and the ball flew into the net. It was a massive reversal and while Kanturk fought tooth and nail in the remainder of the game to ensure parity, that goal was the cushion that Bandon required to stay that little bit in front and hold on for a deserved, but so hard earned victory.
Kanturk were shattered at the finish, who could blame them, but they have a young and vibrant side and this experience (they never succeeded in passing the first round of this competition prior to 2007), will stand them in good stead for the future. Nash, bar that one unfortunate blip had a good match, while Kieran O'Connor worked very hard at full-back and captain Dave O'Riordan had a fine game as pivot of the defence, with the hard working Edmund Ahern providing great back-up service from the left flank of the defence.
They deployed the outstanding Cork minor dual star Lorcán McLoughlin as an extra 'sweeper' behind the midfield duo of John Healy and Brendan Mullane for much of the game. However, it was the move of their star performer Aidan Walsh to this vital zone that finally broke the Bandon stranglehold as the second half progressed. Walsh was truly a colossus, his splendid personal tally typifying and embellishing his class, but the move of McLoughlin, to an extent was a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul as the attack suffered as a consequence.
Fergus Brown tried hard while substitute Willie Murphy won a fair amount of ball, but their finishing prowess and composure was not in the same vein or mould as Bandon.
Bandon were thrilled and delighted with this win and deserve immense credit for bouncing back after that morale shattering junior football defeat by Urhan on the previous week. John Crowley kept a clean sheet, that last vital save of paramount importance, while James O'Donovan with two crucial goalmouth clearances really illustrated his value to the team.
Joe Burke was sound at full-back while Gavin O'Riordan, Brian Hurley and Tomás Bambury all hurled confidently. The ace in the defensive pack was one Kieran Hurley. Akin to the Scarlet Pimpernel, he was truly the unsung hero, here, there and everywhere as the occasion required. Nine out of ten marks to the defence, the one black mark that third quarter siesta when slack marking allowed Kanturk pick off vital scores at will.
Johnny O'Regan had a fine match around the middle, while partner Charles Dullea worked hard. However, it was up in attack that Bandon done most of the damage. Darren Crowley was full of running, while Eoin O'Donovan covered oceans of ground and was a key figure. However, this time out, the power players were Hickey, Burke, O'Donoghue and Johnson. Hickey, the swashbuckling leader, his goal and three points a sublime return, the energy and industry of Burke and his two gems of scores. Not forgetting Johnson the forager and score provider and last, but by no means least the silken hurling skills of one Darren O'Donoghue. Substitutes Roy Payne, Niall O'Rourke and Jason McCarthy all contributed to a great Bandon win.
Eoin O'Donovan and John Healy shared early points as the match commenced at a crisp pace. After Alan Johnson and Lorcán McLoughlin did likewise, good hurling by Bandon, particularly the half-forward division, saw them forge ahead. With Kieran Hurley brilliant at wing back, his inspiration rubbed off on his colleagues as John O'Regan picked up a wayward Kanturk clearance to shoot a great score in the 9th minute.
Then followed a great save by Nash from Johnson as Darren Crowley and McLoughlin traded frees. In an isolated Kanturk sally, Dave McCarthy brought a replicate stop from John Crowley, the action continuing unabated. However, the rebound was swiftly swept over the Bandon bar by the lurking Aidan Walsh, the first in his scoring crusade.
Jason Hickey and Eoin O'Donovan kept up the relentless Bandon pressure with two good white flags, but the fickle nature of the game was emphasised when a long clearance by Nash hit the post, a bullet from Dave McCarthy whistling wide of a gaping Bandon goal. A Darren Crowley free and a neat point by Brendan Mullane punctuated the next patch of play as O'Donoghue, Hickey, Crowley and O'Donovan began to impose their will on the game for Bandon. The former had a fine score with an equally impressive point from almost the sideline by Hickey adorning a now cracking contest. Sandwiched in between came a fine free from the unerring Lorcán McLoughlin as Kanturk struggled to stay in touch.
Crowley and McLoughlin traded frees as a lively opening thirty minutes drew to a conclusion. The tally of six wides for Bandon as against five for their opponents' gave an indication of the scoring chances created. Kanturk resumed with Aidan Walsh and Brendan Healy as the new midfield partnership, John Healy gone to wing-back and McLoughlin operating at left half-forward.
Inspirational changes indeed as with Bandon appearing a bit lacklustre, the vanquished roared into contention. Walsh had a brace of real beauties as already documented. However, that Hickey goal put a damper on matters, but in fairness to Kanturk, they rallied well. Walsh and Johnson traded good scores as the last quarter dawned.
A McLoughlin 65 and another whopper by Walsh increased the tension even further. Bandon countered by moving Darren O'Donoghue to the 'mark', Donncha Burke to the wing and immediately the result was of a positive nature. The strong running Burke, a real chip off the old block had a beauty, Kieran Hurley again instrumental in the lead-up to the score. Walsh had two more sublime scores, with a most important score by Hickey giving Bandon that little desired chink of light in the interim. When McLoughlin pointed two more subsequent frees, one could cut the tension with a knife. However, never-say-die Donncha Burke signalled lights out for Kanturk, leaving Bandon celebrating a famous result.
Our verdict: What an absorbing match played at a lightning pace. Good scores, thrilling goalmouth clashes, crisp, clean hurling and a gripping finale. Bandon won, not because they were the ultra dominant force, but purely because as a collective unit they were better balanced in defence and more lethal in front of goal in attack, while Kanturk possessed some outstanding individuals but were not nearly as dangerous where it matters, up in the engineroom.So Bandon can celebrate with some justification. They last saw gold at the end of this particular hurling rainbow way back some thirty-three years ago in 1974 when they defeated Midleton in the decider.
Little wonder that coach Red Crowley was in upbeat mood when we caught up with him for the post match interview. ''I am relieved and thrilled. It was too close for comfort at the finish; in fact I had visions of a draw. We played very well in the first half, put a lot of effort into the match and could have possibly had a few more scores on the board at the break. We struggled somewhat in the third quarter, had a few bad wides, but thankfully got the points that saw us through at the finish. '' I felt that whoever got the goal would win the match and fortunately that fell to us at a vital time, providing a bit of a cushion and giving our young lads a bit of confidence.
This is a massive boost for the club and indeed for the town of Bandon as we try to keep hurling going. Our last championship game was against Valley Rovers some time ago and this tough match should bring us on a lot. We have a great bunch of lads who are eager for the game and we will really look forward to the final'', so concluded the affable Bandon coach.
We had several contenders for man of the match including the brilliant Aidan Walsh from Kanturk, Jason Hickey, Darren O'Donoghue, Donncha Burke and Alan Johnson, but in the overall context the performance of Kieran Hurley merits him the deserved accolade on a day when a great team performance by Bandon was the key factor.
Man of the match, Kieran Hurley, Bandon.
Scorers - Bandon: Jason Hickey 1-3, Darren Crowley 0-3 from frees, Eoin O'Donovan 0-2, Alan Johnson 0-2, Darren O'Donoghue 0-2, Donncha Burke 0-2, John O'Regan 0-1. Kanturk: Aidan Walsh 0-7, 0-1 from sideline, Lorcán McLoughlin 0-7, 0-5 from frees, 0-1 from 65, John Healy 0-1, Brendan Mullane 0-1.
Bandon: John Crowley, James O'Donovan, Joe Burke, Brian Hurley, Gavin O'Riordan, Tomás Bambury, Kieran Hurley, John O'Regan, Charles Dullea, Jason Hickey, Alan Johnson, Darren O'Donoghue, Eoin O'Donovan, Donncha Burke, Darren Crowley. Subs.: Roy Payne for Charles Dullea, Niall O'Rourke for John O'Regan, Jason McCarthy for Darren Crowley.
Kanturk: Anthony Nash, John McLoughlin, Kieran O'Connor, Eoghan O'Connor, Frank Healy, Dave O'Riordan, Edmund Ahern, John Healy, Brendan Mullane, Lorcán McLoughlin, Aidan Walsh, Dave McCarthy, Fergus Brown, Donagh Duane, Cathal Burke. Subs.: Ivan Brennan for Dave McCarthy, Willie Murphy for Frank Healy.