Reigning Division 1 champions have it all to do with only four games left
THEIR grip on the title is loosening – but Bandon won’t give up hope of retaining their league crown until it’s mathematically impossible.
It took a last-minute try from Tom Ferguson to snatch a 10-6 away win against bottom of the table St Mary’s last Sunday.
Missing out on a much-needed bonus point win means that third-placed Bandon are now nine points behind leaders Clonmel who stretched their lead last weekend after beating Kanturk.
With just four games left, Bandon’s hopes of defending the Division 1 league title they won last season for the first time since 1993 look slim – but Ferguson is refusing to throw in the towel.
After Kanturk this Sunday, Bandon are away to Kilfeacle (currently fourth), home to Richmond (currently fifth) before an away trip to leaders Clonmel in the final round at the start of March. The aim is to take the title race to that last game.
‘Clonmel are nine points ahead but we still have them to play and they could slip up as well. It’s not out of reach but we are after making it very difficult for ourselves,’ Ferguson admitted.
‘Look at last year, we needed four bonus point wins in our last four games to win the league and that’s what we ended up doing so we know what’s possible. Until it’s completely out of our reach, we won’t stop going.
‘We need to gather up as many points as we can from here to the end. We have Kanturk in Musgrave Park this weekend, and then we have three of the top teams in our last three games – Richmond, Kilfeacle and Clonmel. It is all big games from here on in.’
That’s why it was disappointing to not get their hands on a bonus point win against struggling St Mary’s. It was Ferguson’s first game back after missing the last two months with a shoulder injury; he had ruptured ligaments in his AC joint. But he made his presence felt with that late, late match-winning try. Jerry Crowley kicked the conversion and also scored a penalty.
‘We were picking and going from their 22 in. One of their players slapped down the ball. We got a penalty. It was a five-metre scrum. It was scrappy, reset a couple of times, and being number eight I was the one at the back with the ball and who got over. It wasn’t anything special but it mattered in the end,’ Ferguson explained.
‘Even thought we got the late winner, it was disappointing overall because maybe it’s a team we were expected to get a bonus point against but it’s never easy to go away up to Limerick and they are fighting for survival too.’
Another challenge Bandon have faced this season is that as current Division 1 champions, they are the team others want to knock off their perch. They’re now a scalp.
‘What we weren’t used to is being the team that everyone wants to beat,’ Ferguson admitted.
‘Every time before when we played Clonmel we’d give that extra 10, 20 per cent to try and beat them and we’d be over the moon if we did. That’s what we are coming up against this year and we weren’t used to that. Teams are putting in that extra bit to beat us and maybe we haven’t dealt with that as well as we could have.’
Bandon also have the Munster Junior Cup to look forward to, away to Kilfeacle in early February.
Meanwhile, Skibbereen sit in sixth place after a 11-6 win against Abbeyfeale. Aidan Stoutt scored the game’s only try and Matthew Bushe kicked two penalties for the Skibb men who are away to St Senan’s this Sunday.