BY DENIS HURLEY
LAST Sunday’s PIHC final win over Fermoy made it ten straight wins for Bandon across championships in both codes, and number 11 this weekend would cap what surely has to be the club’s best-ever year.
Since losing to Cill na Martra in the first round of the IFC on April 23rd, the Lilywhites have been impeccable, with the five hurling wins joined by football victories over Clonakilty, Ballydesmond, Glanworth and Mitchelstown before vengeance was gained in a semi-final tie against Cill na Martra.
While good results in Division 4 of the county football league had perhaps led to a false sense of security before the opening game, that loss helped to focus minds and since then there has been an incremental improvement, each game bringing the team on.
The goals have flowed – 15 in the six games, Mark Sugrue scoring seven while Barry Collins and Adam Murphy have contributed heavily too – and the defence has been mean, with nobody managing to accumulate more than 14 points against them. Even Cill na Martra’s 2-8 in the semi-final was flattering, as they didn’t score from play until the 57th minute and the second goal
was in garbage-time.
Anyone who plays open football with Bandon will be burned, and the return of Michael Cahalane for the semi added another element to an already devastating attack, guided from centre-forward by the veteran Alan Johnson.
While there is a large crossover from the successful hurling team – only Brian Crowley, Tom O’Donoghue, Johnson and Collins didn’t have game-time last Sunday – fatigue is not a fear.
Good co-operation between football manager Colm Aherne and his hurling counterpart Niall O’Halloran has ensured that players haven’t been over-worked and the proof of the wisdom of that approach has been seen with wins over the last three weekends.
It’s often said that football is a game for bad hurlers and Bandon have shown that good hurlers can prosper playing it too. But their opponents, Rockchapel, have had two weeks to prepare for this, since beating Duhallow rivals Millstreet in the semi-final.
Junior champions in 2012, they reached the semi-final of the IFC at the first attempt and then the final in 2014, losing to Éire Óg. They have bounced back well from a disappointing fourth-round loss to Mayfield last year.
Liam Collins and Séamus Hickey are the dangermen in attack for Rockchapel and their defence has been even tighter than Bandon’s, with 12 points the most they have allowed. The flipside of that is that they don’t have the same attacking firepower either and so the key for Bandon will be to ensure that it doesn’t become a dour battle.
Conor Keppel and Maurice Stack are effective in the Rockchapel midfield, but Bandon have the manpower there to ensure they are not overrun. If Sugrue, Collins and Murphy get possession, they will do the rest. Double delight hopefully awaits.