IF lessons have been learned from the past few seasons, Bandon will be a dangerous proposition in Sunday’s South West U21B football championship final.
They’re competing in their third South West U21B final in a row – but they’ve lost the previous two, losing to Ibane Gaels in 2016 despite leading by five points with three minutes left and then Kilmacabea and Damien Gore gunned them down last season.
The majority of the side that lost to Kilmacabea last year are still involved, with only Jeremy Collins and Rob O’Driscoll who are starting now not featuring in the 2017 decider.
‘We would hope what happened last year will make our lads that big hungrier and will drive them on to give it absolutely everything they have to get over the line on Sunday,’ said Bandon selector Louise O’Keeffe.
‘They know what it’s like to lose a final and some have now lost two so they don’t want to lose a third in a row. That will drive them on, to give every last ounce they have.’
Ahead of Sunday evening’s final in Ballinascarthy (6pm), Bandon have beaten Newcestown (2-13 to 1-13) and Urhan (3-6 to 0-13), producing a stunning comeback in the extra-time win against Newcestown.
Captain Adam Murphy has scored three goals in two games, while Eoin Nolan, Ben Donegan, Aidan O’Mahony, Eoin O’Sullivan, Timmy McCarthy and Paul Lang have all been on target for Frank Lyon’s young charges who are up against an O’Donovan Rossa side also capable of working the scoreboard.
The Skibb team needed extra-time to see off Kilbrittain (1-12 to 3-4) before defeating Owen Gaels (2-11 to 2-8) in the semi-final. Seventeen-year-old Elliot Connolly has kicked 3-8 of Skibb’s total, with Dylan Hourihane, Sean Fitzgerald, Rory Byrne, Darren Daly and Eoghan O’Connell all scoring two points or more.
‘There are a lot of good footballers in this team,’ explained Skibb selector Shane Crowley.
‘From Eoin Fitzgerald in the full-back line – he made his debut for seniors against Aghada last month – all the way up to young Elliot Connolly who is only 17 years of age, there are a lot of good, confident footballers.
‘We try not to restrict them too much with tactics or any defensive ploys. We want them to go out and enjoy themselves and express themselves because at this stage, lads are developing mentally and physical, and there is enough time for them in senior football for tactics and all that.’
Encouraging their players to play a positive brand of football and move the ball quickly has worked out for Skibb to date, and the club is going well at the moment with the juniors and seniors winning their first-round championship matches, as well as the U21s in a divisional final.
Sean Fitzgerald and Dylan Hourihane have been playing senior football with Skibb since the 2015 Cork SFC semi-final, and, along with Eoin Fitzgerald and Dylan O’Donovan, played against Aghada last month – but Bandon have plenty of experience in their ranks too, Adam Murphy the obvious choice.
‘He’s a leader on this team and he was named captain for a reason,’ Louise O’Keeffe explains.
‘He scores, he falls back when needed, he leads by example and does whatever is needed – and we will need Adam and all our players to stand up on Sunday and be counted.
‘We are very wary of the fact that we haven’t met O’Donovan Rossa at U21 level in the last few years because they were in the A grade. We did meet them at minor level three years ago, that was a very close game and we’re expecting a tight contest on Sunday.’
That’s a view shared by Shane Crowley who is confident that Skibb will return to the A grade next season with silverware under their belts.
‘Our aim was always to go up to A for 2019 because there are only one or two lads overage for next year,’ he said.
‘We felt that the B grade was more suitable this season for us and where we could be more competitive at this level.
‘We felt it would be good to go into 2019 with a few extra games under our belt instead of being knocked out in the first round as we have been in the last few years at A grade.
‘We want players to progress and at this stage it’s important for 19, 20 year olds to be playing football and we’re after two good, hard games and now in a final. There is a buzz about it now.’