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Bandon soccer is back in the big time

June 6th, 2023 4:00 PM

By Matthew Hurley

Bandon soccer is back in the big time Image
Bandon AFC celebrates winning the Beamish Stout Munster Senior First Division after their recent league win over Park United at the Town Park.

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BANDON AFC is setting its sights high after becoming a Munster Senior League Premier Division side once again.

The club collected the Beamish Stout Munster Senior First Division trophy at the Town Park recently after beating Park United 2-0 – a memorable moment after a dominant season that saw this Bandon team grow and develop over the season.

The management team of Seán Holland, Áine O’Donovan and Paul O’Brien has led the side to the promised land and deserve huge credit.

‘The first trophy we won was eight years ago and I was a player back then,’ manager Sean Holland told the Southern Star.

‘We were in a very tough league – Douglas Hall, Everton, St Mary’s and all the big clubs there so to come out of that was fantastic.’

Captain Brendan Cullen was equally delighted.

‘Going through a transition over the last two or three years and we’ve got the benefits of that, we reaped the rewards,’ he said.

‘We had a long, hard season of training to get back to where we belong. We’re a big club in West Cork so it’s massive for the club, massive for the community to see us back playing premier football.’

The Bandon players are enjoying their football and with the three aforementioned coaches there, they can’t go wrong.

‘All three of them have a great footballing brain. There was always a good relationship between players and management, win, lose or draw,’ Cullen explained.

‘There was good back and forth between players and management so that we could iron out the small issues and get stronger. There might have been only two voices at the start of the season but as it progressed there were more and more voices from the team, the younger lads coming through. Everything was coming into place at the end of the season, everyone was hungry.’

The Bandon AFC dream team of John O'Brien (goalkeeping coach), Paul O'Brien, Sean Holland and Aine O'Donovan.

The transfers have been a big success, too. The club brought three players in last summer, including goalkeepers Kevin O’Brien and Ryan Scannell. Ger Rice, from Innisvilla, joined two seasons ago and helped to steady up the backline.

‘It was fantastic for the defenders to work with the keepers, week in, week out,’ said Holland.

‘Paul O’Brien and Áine O’Donovan didn’t mind taking the attackers’ drills while I took the defence just to get them to work together and know our shape.

‘Our set-up for open play and defending corners or throw-ins was all tight. The lads would know then how to set up for the game on the Saturday.

‘It was very good to trust each other too because the goalkeeper in my opinion is the most important position as they can see the whole pitch. They can sweep behind defenders for any ball going over the top, they can receive it off defenders when we’re under pressure.

‘It’s fantastic that way, you have to work as a team if you want to achieve things.’

The turning point of their campaign was back in October. They lost 1-0 to Leeds but followed it up with a 2-1 win over Douglas Hall, the team who finished second behind Bandon.

‘The bounce back in that game set the tempo,’ captain Cullen added.

‘We went on a run then. We didn’t lose a league game until we played Douglas again two weeks ago. That defeat in Leeds was probably the best thing to happen to us. We dissected that game on where it went wrong and pushed on from there.’

Both Holland and Cullen are honoured to be manager and captain of the team respectively.

‘I played with a good few of them as I'm only 35 myself and played with them for the last 10 or 15 years. I knew what to expect from the senior lads, the challenge was the picking from the juniors and U19s,’ the manager said.

‘I’ve coached a lot of the lads at U12, 13, 14 levels and now they’re playing alongside me,’ Cullen added. ‘Just to think that we can bring something to the club, it’s what dreams are made of. To go and lift the cup is massive for me, I genuinely was delighted to do it in front of a big crowd.’

So what’s the objectives for this rising team?

‘My mindset for next season is week by week,’ answered Holland.

‘This year was the same, we had to concentrate on every game. For me, it would be great to stay in the division for as long as we can.

‘It’s the highest level in Ireland, as seen with Rockmount winning the last two FAI Intermediate Cups. That’s the All-Ireland, which shows you what level the Cork senior league is.

‘If we stick together, work as a unit, I can’t see why we can’t stay up and challenge for other trophies.’

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