TWO years ago, after a three-point defeat to Waterpark in the pan-Munster U16 final, Bandon players made a promise to one another.
Sitting in the dressing room at Thomond Park, their dreams shattered, they vowed to bounce back and win the Munster U18 Cup two years later.
And that’s just what they did last Sunday, edging out Skibbereen in an all-West Cork Munster final that went right to the very end.
‘That day two years ago in the Munster U16 final, Waterpark were the better team and deserved to win it. In the dressing-room after the game, the lads made a promise to themselves that they would be back in two years time for the U18 cup and that they would win it,’ Bandon manager Bob Brady explains.
‘They went about their business for the past two years with the ambition of winning this cup.
‘At the start of this season we had a meeting with players and coaches about what we wanted to do, and making the final was something on everyone’s mind. They did, and now they won it.
‘This team is unbeaten so far this season. They haven’t lost any game. The final was our 14th game in this competition.’
Of all their games in this cup run, none compared to this final at Thomond Park as the two West Cork teams served up a tremendous feast.
Skibbereen took the lead in the tenth minute when centre Matthew Bushe crossed the try-line and three minutes later Bandon’s Jack Crowley kicked a penalty to keep his side in touch. There were no more scores in the first half as Skibb led 5-3 at the break – but all the drama was still to come.
Jamie Shanahan kicked a Skibb penatly to extend their lead (8-3) but back came Bandon with a well-worked Ben Donegan try that was converted by Crowley. Bandon full back Joe Crowley then crossed the line in the 62nd minute for a crucial score that moved them 15-8 in front.
But the game wasn’t over yet. Skibbereen’s Jordi O’Brien raced in to the corner for a fine try with minutes left – but the conversion attempt from Shanahan that would have levelled the game hit the crossbar.
Bandon then went through several phases in an intense few minutes as they saw out the game and a narrow two-point win that ended this team’s unwanted sequence of losing finals.
‘That was a huge game for us last Sunday because for this bunch of lads, this was their fifth final that they’ve played and they hadn’t won any of the previous ones,’ Brady explained. ‘There were a lot of nerves before the game on Sunday and it came down to the width of a crossbar in the end.
‘We were thankful that we got over the line. I felt sorry for Skibb because it’s a terrible way to lose a final. We know, we’ve been there. Skibb are a fine team, they’ll come again and they’ll be there again next year.’
The season is not over yet as Bandon are now through to the All-Ireland U18 final, and they are in the South Munster League Cup semi-final as well as the quarter-final of the South Munster Cup.
‘The boys are on a bit of a roll at the moment and it would be great to keep that going,’ Brady said ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final.
‘Hopefully this win will take the shackles off and that’s what we need to go further in the All-Ireland and give a good account of ourselves there.’
Bandon: Joseph Crowley; Harry Hall, Sean Galvin, Eoghan Guinevan, Matthew Crowley; Jack Crowley, Ciaran Roberts; Conor Heaney, Alex O’Connor, James Collins/O’Brien, Conor Keogh, Ben Donegan, Tadgh Galvin, Joshua Brady, Padraig Galvin.
Replacements: Ronan Cremin, Mark Wilson/Fehilly, Frank Toner, Thomas Bryant, Johan van der Westhuizen, Sam Golden, Denis McCann.
Skibbereen: Darren Daly; Oisin Lucey, Matthew Bushe, Thomas Beare, Eoghan O’Neill; Jamie Shanahan, Gavin Foley; Daniel Duggan, Jamie O’Driscoll, Daniel Cullinane, Aidan Stout, Michael Maguire, Jonathan Benn, Lucas O’Connor, Michael Veale.
Replacements: Euan O’Donovan, Jason Murphy, John O’Driscoll, Jack O’Sullivan, Keith Whelton, Jordi O’Brien.
Referee: E Cross.