THE Bandon players stood in a circle, surrounded by friends, family and supporters, and launched into their usual celebration song.
‘The silicone chip inside her head gets switched to overload,’ they sang, the opening to the Boomtown Rats hit I Don’t Like Mondays. However, waking up as Munster Junior League Division 1 champions would certainly have made last Monday more bearable.
Going into the game against Newcastlewest at Old Chapel on Sunday, Bandon knew that a bonus-point victory would be enough to claim a first title in a quarter-century and, playing with the wind, the first half they produced was arguably their best sustained period of rugby all season.
Despite the pressure, no chips were switched to overload – in the space of the previous month, they had seen off Waterpark, St Senan’s and Abbeyfeale and scored four or more tries in each and here they dealt with the challenge in no-nonsense fashion.
Well on top in the scrum from the off, they had the lead inside 13 minutes. After hooker Scott Kingston carried well, out-half Rhys Harrold showed wonderful vision with a chipped pass for the left corner, where full-back Olan Crowley was able to race in to touch down.
While the conversion attempt went astray, their play continued to sparkle and the lead was doubled before too long. When Harrold set winger Gearóid Crowley away, he showed good speed and then centre Billy Crowley almost got to the line before Kingston finished the job.
Conall Bromwich nearly got in immediately after that but they didn’t have much waiting time as the third try arrived on the half-hour, scrum-half Santiago Gonzalez finding lock Enda Phelan, who showed great strength to get over.
Kerry Desmond added the conversion for 17-0 and within two minutes they had the bonus point, a lovely move involving Billy Crowley, Desmond, Olan Crowley and Gearóid Crowley eating up territory before Gonzalez fed Billy Crowley to cross the line to rapturous cheers.
Again Desmond converted and there was still time for more before half-time, with Harrold getting the fifth try following brilliant interplay between Billy Crowley and Desmond and then, having looked to have been bottled up, produced an outrageous chip and chase to get in for a sixth try, Billy Crowley converting on this occasion for a 36-0 half-time lead.
While the bonus point was secured, there was still a small chance that they could be denied the title if the lead were to be overturned and Newcastlewest got off to a good start in the second half as the rain fell with their star man, out-half Seán Herlihy, getting in for a try.
Two bonus points – for four tries and coming within seven points – would have qualified them for next year’s All-Ireland Cup and so in a bid to save time Herlihy opted for a drop-goal conversion but failed to score.
Nevertheless, with Bandon’s Gonzalez yellow-carded, the visitors had a second try from winger Seán Murphy. Bandon weren’t rattled though and Bromwich nearly got in only to be held up but the seventh try did arrive as Gonzalez, back on the field, got his second with another choreographed move off the back of a scrum.
Newcastlewest did have two late tries from Damian Kelly and Darragh Joyce, both converted by Herlihy, to give them one bonus point, but Bandon were not going to allow them another.
They had a good Sunday evening (and Monday morning) to look forward to.
Bandon: Olan Crowley; Gearóid O’Leary, Billy Crowley, Kerry Desmond, Gearóid Crowley; Rhys Harrold, Santiago Gonzalez; Mike Murphy, Scott Kingston, Tim Crowley; Cian Buttimer, Enda Phelan; Conall Bromwich, Tom Ferguson, Ryan Hayes.
Replacements: Aidan Slattery, Mark Phelan, Kieran Phelan, Philip Murphy, Christian Mulcahy.
Newcastlewest: Seán Ivess; Damian Kelly, Brian O’Sullivan, Cian Mulcahy, Seán Murphy; Seán Herlihy, Tom Kelleher; Shane Magner, Seán Corbett, Darragh O’Shea; Gerald Griffin, Jason Wolfe; Keelan Head, Matthew Mullane, Donal O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Darragh Joyce, Alan O’Riordan, Declan Moloney, Darragh Fox, Niall Kelleher.
Referee: Paudie Sheehan (MAR).