AS far as Colum Hurley knows, Bandon Rugby Club has never won the Junior 2 Cup.
The record books have been searched and there’s no sign of Bandon winning this trophy, so the club’s current J2s stand on the brink of history this Sunday, 24th, when they take on J2 League champions Cork Con in the final at Musgrave Park (11am).
‘We think Bandon has never won the J2 Cup, nobody can remember us winning it and that’s amazing because we have been around since 1882. It would be an unbelievable achievement,’ long-serving player Hurley explains.
Victory this Sunday would also complete a brilliant J2 treble. Bandon has already won both the Mick Barry Cup and the Kelly Cup. In the Mick Barry Cup they beat Sunday’s opponents, Cork Con, 18-7. The Kelly Cup was a shoot-out against Muskerry that Bandon won 39-17. ‘We have played 12 games this season, we won ten, and we lost by one point and three points in the other games; we have been very consistent all year,’ says Hurley, pointing to Bandon’s third-place finish in the Junior 2 league, behind Cork Con and Highfield, two teams they have beaten in cup competitions.
‘We have used 46 players this season so far,’ he explains, ranging from players who lined up with Bandon Grammar School in this year’s Munster Schools’ Senior Cup to long-serving club legends like Hurley himself, who made his J1 debut in 1995.
‘The youngest lads on our team are straight out of the Grammar School and then you have fellas like myself, who will be 44 in June, and JP Lucey who wouldn't be far behind me.’
The J2s play a crucial role in the success of Bandon’s Junior 1 team, who has won both Munster Junior League Division 1 and Munster Junior Cup honours in recent times. It’s a stepping stone for young players into adult rugby.
‘A lot of fellas playing J2 rugby with Bandon are serving their apprenticeship; they can step up to the J1s when they are needed. I think the J2s are unbelievably important in all clubs. When the J1s have a few injuries, fellas from the J2s can come up and slot in,’ says Hurley, who explains that highly-rated Munster out-half Jack Crowley, from Innishannon, started out with the Bandon J2s.
‘Jack played his first adult game of rugby for Bandon’s J2s; he played in a final for the J2s in Musgrave Park around four or five years ago. He came straight out of the Grammar and he played in the final,’ Hurley says.
Even though there could be a big turnover in the team from one weekend to another – the J2s can play J1 subs who didn't play on the Sunday – consistent numbers at training mean players are familiar with the calls so it allows a seamless transition. It helps, too, when experienced players like Will Canavan, who played AIL rugby with Buccaneers, lines out with the J2s.
Hurley himself is a club legend, a former J1 captain, and a Junior 2 Cup triumph this Sunday would be another addition to his medal collection.
‘If we win on Sunday, that will be the end of it, I’ll be packing up!’ he quips, and if that is how Hurley bows out, what a way to go.