Coach salutes young stars after five-try performance
BY DENIS HURLEY
WHILE a win over Gorey saw Bandon crowned as All-Ireland U16 rugby champions, it was a victory with a lot of groundwork.
Bandon came out on top on a 27-16 scoreline in Mullingar, having been level at 10-10 at half-time and having played against the wind. Coach Paul Barr – who will now try to complete a double in leading his ‘other’ side, Cork Constitution, to All-Ireland League glory – felt that the players used the biggest stage to display the skills they had been taught from a young age.
Tom Desmond scored three tries for Bandon with Johnny Kenneally getting the other two as Bandon stuck to the principles of fast, running rugby, which was exactly what Barr wanted to see.
‘Gorey were very strong physically,’ he says, ‘they were well organised and you see that they were well coached, their pack was very strong.
‘They had the physical advantage and their pick-and-drive and mauling were difficult to deal with at times. They controlled possession really well in the first half but, sometimes, running with the ball is easier when you’re playing into the wind.
‘The lads played the same way they always have, they ran and passed well and that was the deciding factor, being able to move the ball quickly from the breakdown. When they got into that rhythm, it generated a lot of width and Gorey were less comfortable in that part of the pitch.
‘Johnny’s two tries either side of half-time were very important and the second-half performance was excellence. There was a lot of very good general play, the club has put a lot of effort into coach education and establishing a style of play and the second half encapsulated that.’
The win keeps an incredible run going as this team continue to see off all comers.
‘They’ve never lost a competitive match in Munster competition, or All-Ireland now,’ Barr says.
‘Two years ago at U14, they won the South Munster. The age-groups go up in twos but last year we kept them together and they played at U16 and won both the development cup and bowl, which was a great achievement.
‘They’re a great bunch, they have lots of talent but they match that with a great attitude, too. They’re a real pleasure to coach. There’s a strong sense of community among the team and within the club and that is such an advantage.’
Coupled with the All-Ireland U18 win of last year, the success points to stellar work at underage level within Bandon. Barr pays tribute to the efforts of Frenchman Régis Sonnes, who was in charge of the club’s junior team as well as Bandon Grammar School in the Munster Schools Senior Cup, for the part he played.
‘He put a lot of emphasis on the style of play,’ he says, ‘and that has filtered down, with underage coaches developing that for their teams.
‘Barry McLaughlin and Gary McCormick have led the way and you can see the results of all that hard work on the pitch.
‘There’s a strong desire to develop the skills of players all the way down the ranks and that has been very effective. It means that the boys enjoy it a lot more and what happens is that there’s nobody telling them what to do, they develop the skills and they’re allowed to play for themselves.
‘It’s working very well and the hope is that they continue on and play adult rugby for Bandon.
‘Young fellas go travelling, obviously, and some will go on to play at higher levels, but if a high number do come through from underage then that has to be good for the club.
‘I’d certainly hope to stay involved with this team.’
Bandon U16 squad: Cillian Lynch, Conor Egan, Ferdia Gibbons, Tom Donegan, Daniel McGarvey, Brendan Twohig, JayC Van Der Westhuizen, Robert McCarthy, Dylan Barr, Jeff Wiliams, Conor Ustianowski, Richard Murphy, Jonathan Kenneally, Tom Desmond, Jacob O’Driscoll, Mark O’Shea, Conor Manning, Jack Appelbe, Matthew O’Dwyer, Ralph O’Mahony, Kain Donnellan, David O’Dwyer, Shane Hathaway, Mark Collins , Nathan Byrne, Paddy Gaffney, Charlie O’Sullivan, James O’Sullivan, Tim O’Leary, Darragh Collins O’Brien, Jack Calnan, Niall Kelly, Peter Symington, Conor Ryan, Eamon Twomey, Liam Egan, Aaron O’Reilly, Eoin McSweeney, Aaron Crowley, John Galvin, Rory McSweeney.