BY KIERAN McCARTHY
IT’S a new year but Bandon will hope to take last year’s form into 2016, starting off with their Munster Junior Cup round one clash away to Kanturk this Sunday afternoon (2pm).
The West Cork team has enjoyed a fantastic opening half of the season in Division 1 of the Munster Junior League, having been promoted as Division 2 champions early last year.
Bandon are right in the title hunt, sitting third in the table on 25 points, just two points off leaders Richmond (27) and one point behind Clonmel (26).
With league games against both Clonmel (home on January 17th) and Richmond (away on January 24th), Bandon will have a truer sense of their Division 1 aspirations after those two matches, but before that is the Munster Junior Cup trip to Kanturk.
‘For any fella who is part of a junior club, the junior cup is the pinnacle. If we can go on a run in the Munster Junior Cup it would be tremendous from Bandon’s point of view,’ explained Bandon manager Dan Murphy.
‘To be fair to the Bandon footballers who won the county for the first time in 40 years last year, there was a fantastic buzz in the town, and it would be great for the rugby team to go on a long run in the Munster Junior Cup.
‘It’s the most difficult competition in junior rugby and you have to beat the biggest teams. On our day we are as good as any team, but if you suffer a few injuries it becomes harder.’
The Bandon squad looks particularly strong this season with Riobaird Wilmot back from New Zealand, while Colin Jackson and Richard White are big additions. New Zealander’s Dan Switenback and Ray Naea have settled in well, Enda Phelan is also expected to play a part in the second half of the season, while Aidan Slattery is moving back to the club from Cork Con. A downside is the long-term injury to Jack Murphy, who is out for the rest of the campaign.
Looking ahead to the second part of the season, Dan Murphy was keeping his cards close to his chest when pressed if Bandon’s targets have changed due to the team’s current league position.
‘The objectives of any team are always inside in the dressing-room and they are always kept quiet,’ he said.
‘A lot of people would have said that to retain our Junior 1 status would have been a realistic objective at the start of the year. That’s fair to say, but this team has greater ambitions.
‘You’re as good as your last game and the most important game is the next game – and our next game is in the Munster Junior Cup against Kanturk this weekend. Last year was the first time Bandon won in the first round of the junior cup in the past seven years.
‘After that we play Clonmel and Richmond in the league and we will see where we are then.’
In Bandon’s seven league games, they have won five, drawn one and lost one (on the opening day to Skibbereen). Bandon signed off 2015 with a thumping 68 – 7 rout of Old Christians, which is, by some distance, the highest score posted in the league this season.
‘We are full value for our position in the league. We are on track and there is great credit due to the players and the coaching staff,’ said Murphy.
There are several local teams in action in the Munster Junior Cup this Sunday, all at 2pm. Clonakilty host Fermoy, Skibbereen entertain Ballincollig and Cobh Pirates welcome Kinsale.