Bandon still in title hunt but Clon are in serious relegation trouble
GER McCARTHY REPORTS
BANDON’S derby victory over Clonakilty has kept their Munster Junior League Division 1 title bid firmly on track.
Bandon remain second in the table, one point behind Clonmel who have a game in hand, with only a couple of games left to play.
But Clonakilty, after losing the West Cork derby at home at Shannonvale last Sunday afternoon, are in a relegation scrap for survival, as this loss, coupled with St Mary’s one-point loss to Galbally, has seen Clon slide to the foot of the table.
This was a must-win game for both clubs – Bandon fighting for the title, Clon fighting for their Division 1 status – as they met for their first league meeting since 1999.
Perfect conditions greeted the teams in front of a bumper crowd with Bandon dominating the early proceedings thanks to a combination of intelligent kicking and a solid scrum.
The home side’s willingness to keep ball in hand saw Clon test Bandon’s defensive resolve but the visitors stood firm and ran in the first try of the afternoon after nine minutes.
Scrum half Richard Walsh was instrumental in a move that saw Bandon advance deep into Clonakilty territory and allow Christopher Laidler to break clear. The Bandon fly-half drew a tackle and released Ray Naea, who ran in under the posts to edge the title-chasers in front.
Richard Walsh added the conversion but Clonakilty responded positively following the ensuing restart with half-backs Mark Purcell and Alex O’Mahony forcing Bandon to defend their 22 for a period.
Unfortunately for Clonakilty, repeated attempts to breach their opponents’ well-organised defensive line resulted in a turnover and Richard Walsh took full advantage, setting up a counter-attack that ended with Bandon scoring a second try.
The visitors moved the ball beautifully across the pitch and Jerry Crowley’s offload allowed winger Gearoid Crowley to cross the line, much to the delight of the sizeable travelling support.
A missed conversion meant Bandon led 12-0 ahead of the host’s best spell in which Mark Purcell split the posts from a penalty to get Clonakilty on the scoreboard.
Bandon lost both Jerry Crowley and Timothy Crowley to yellow cards during that period but crucially, Clonakilty failed to make their numerical advantage count.
Camped on the Bandon try-line, Clon couldn’t find a way through and changed ends 12-3 behind.
A third Bandon yellow card (Enda Phelan), early in the second half, proved costly however as Clon executed a move through their back division to send Thomas Oige Scannell in for a superb try.
Mark Purcell’s failure from a difficult conversion meant Bandon enjoyed a 12-8 lead and Richard Walsh extended that advantage by a further three points from a penalty shortly after.
The closing stages saw Clonakilty unable to break through Bandon’s disciplined defensive line and guilty of wasting good field position, making for frustrating viewing for their supporters.
In contrast, the visitors proved more clinical when scoring opportunities arose and slowly built through the phases resulting in the award of another penalty. Richard Walsh made no mistake in front of the posts to make it 18-8.
Bandon’s heroic defensive efforts saw the visitors twice deny Clonakilty with try-saving tackles in the final minutes before Gearoid Crowley put the seal on a vital win with his team’s third and final try of the game.
Despite missing out on a bonus point win, Bandon were full value for their victory and remain firmly in Division 1 title contention following another powerful display.
But Sunday’s result leaves Clonakilty joint-bottom of the table with St Mary’s and requiring an upturn in form to avoid dropping down a division.
Clonakilty: Mark Purcell (1 pen), Thomas Oige Scannell (try).
Bandon: Richard Walsh (2 pens, 1 con), Gearoid Crowley (2 tries), Ray Naea (1 try).
Clonakilty: Andrew McCarthy; Robert Finglas, Shane Scannell, Eoin O’Neill, Thomas Oige Scannell; Mark Purcell (captain), Alex O’Mahony; Courtney Canning, Gerard McCarthy, Batt Duggan; Donal McSweeney, Olan Deane; Steven Cotter, Ray Coppinger, Diarmuid Cadogan.
Replacements: Cian Clancy, Jonathan Toft, Jason Fleming, Garry Purtill, Ciarán Calnan.
Bandon: Olan Crowley; Christian Mulcahy, Jerry Crowley, Ray Naea, Gearoid Crowley; Chris Laidler, Richard Walsh; Kieran Essex, Michael Beecher; Tom Ferguson, Daniel Swithenbank, Enda Phelan; Timothy Crowley, Scott Kingston, Aidan Slattery.
Replacements: Michael Murphy, Riobard Wilmot, Colin Jackson, Gearoid O’Leary, Kevin Lucey.
Referee: Ross Clery.