BY DENIS HURLEY
A PIFC quarter-final clash with Bantry Blues awaits either Bandon or Castletownbere when they meet in Kealkil at 4pm on Saturday.
Neither side is exactly pleased with the timing â Bandon were unhappy that the game was put back from its original siting of last Friday at short notice while the shift from 6.30pm to 4pm isn't ideal for the Beara side.
Nevertheless, both clubs are focusing on the positive, with Bandon manager Dave O'Donovan pleased to welcome back four key men since the round 2B win over Nemo Rangers.
âThe last couple of years, our success has been town to the strength of the panel more than anything else,' he says.
âThis year, we've been decimated but the few weeks since the Nemo game have been a help in that we have lads back who had been unavailable. Ronan Crowley, Eoghan O'Donovan, James Walsh and Mike Cahalane are all back in the mix now again, they're four big additions.'
Having lost their first round to BÃ©al Ãthan Ghaorthaidh, Bandon have bounced back well and O'Donovan feels it's further proof of his team's ability to meet challenges.
âTwo years ago, we were preparing for a West Cork final and now we're just an hour's football away from being in the premier intermediate quarter-finals,' he says.
âThe lads have had to learn fast and it's been the same in the hurling but they've done really well and it has been a case of taking things one game at a time and then shifting the focus accordingly.'
Bar a few knocks, Castletownbere have a full squad but manager Peter O'Leary makes a wry observation in that regard.
âIt's easy to have a full crew because numbers are so tight!' he laughs.
âWe have a lot of younger players this year so the real pressure game was the Ballinora match, getting over that was huge as it took the pressure off.
âWe had an off-night against Bantry then, I don't think we did ourselves justice and we'll have to lift it a lot because I think we're bigger underdogs on Saturday than we were against Bantry.'
The two sides top Division 4 of the league, Bandon's 1-15 to 0-13 win the only loss suffered by table-toppers Castletown.Â
âWe put a lot of emphasis on the league, we have nine games played and we're promoted and have a league final to look forward to at the end of the year,' O'Leary says.
âWe had the Donal Harrington Trophy in Beara too but the big problem is always player availability, especially when we're so far from Cork and a lot of the team don't have 9-5 jobs.
âIt was like that 20 years ago when I was playing and if there's still a club in 20 years' time I'd say it'll be exactly the same.'