BY DENIS HURLEY
BANDON face what manager Niall O’Halloran calls their ‘toughest test’ as Carrigtwohill provide the opposition in Ovens on Saturday evening (7.30pm).
Having beaten Muskerry in the preliminary round and then lost to Blackrock in round 1, the Lilywhites face the East Cork side in this round 2B bout, seeking to keep their campaign alive.
There is the consolation that, even if they do lose, there are no relegation fears, but O’Halloran is keen to ensure that the year continues.
‘This is it, the cut-and-thrust of championship,’ he says.
‘We we disappointed with how we lost against Blackrock but there were a lot of positives to take from that display and anything that wasn’t good, we’ve been working on in training.
‘The lads went back to the football for a week because we thought they might have a game against Nemo Rangers, but that’s gone back now. We’ve had a chance to do a lot with them and it’s tough on the football management, this is a big block of hurling but as always there’s great co-operation.
A 1-16 to 1-13 loss to Midleton a fortnight ago ended Bandon’s eight-game programme in section 2 of the RedFM Senior Hurling League. O’Halloran isn’t concerned that those eight matches featured five defeats and only one win, though. The focus has been on increasing squad depth and that objective has been achieved.
‘The league table doesn’t really do us justice, I think,’ he says.
‘The performances have been better than the results and we’ve used the opportunity to blood players and build a panel.
‘If this was 18 months ago, you might say that we were lacking depth but guys have been given a chance to play senior hurling and we’ve the utmost faith in them.’
Carrigtwohill were county champions as recently as 2011, though their squad has changed notably in the interim. They began with a 2-14 to 0-9 loss to Midleton, fading after the concession of second-half goals.
‘I’ve seen them a bit,’ O’Halloran says.
‘We’re under no illusions, I honestly think it’ll be our toughest test.
‘They’re a fierce proud club and a team with real honesty but no little skill either.
‘They’re very hard to break down, I think the result against Midleton wasn’t a fair reflection as they were well in it for 45 minutes.
‘They play to a very effective system, we’ll have to try to match their hunger and application. It will be very close, I’ve no doubt about that.’