BANDON’S appearance in Saturday’s All-Ireland U16 final against Gorey in Mullingar (1pm) comes on the back of the club winning the U18 national title last year as well as the U19 grade in 2013.
Such success doesn’t happen by accident, of course, and youth officer Gary McCormick points to a strong body of work at underage level in the club.
‘This is an accumulation of work going back years,’ he says.
‘When I started in the club 14 or 15 years ago, there were around a hundred registered players from minis upwards, U7-U18. Now, that figure is 350 and it’s growing every year.
‘We work very hard in all of the national schools in the area, we visit them to try to recruit players and introduce them to the sport, showing them how fun it can be and to encourage them to give it a try.’
Players start off at Bandon at ages five and six, with regional Munster leagues in operation from U13 onwards and U16 and U18 run on a pan-Manster basis.
Putting the right foundations in place is key to ensuring a good flow of underage players.
‘We ensure that we have enough coaches in place at each age-grade,’ McCormick says.
‘Then we try to instil a rugby philosophy through the club so that all of the teams play the same way and have a similar training schedule.
‘The key thing is that it’s not win-at-all-costs rugby, we want to give as many players as possible the chance to play.
‘At U12 level this year, we have 45 players so there are two teams and all of the players get rugby, you don’t have guys standing on the sideline, feeling that they’re not getting a chance.’
And the bottom line is to try to carry on the involvement from U18 to adult level, something McCormick feels that Bandon are successfully managing at the moment.
‘You can see that from last week’s County Cup final win,’ he says.
‘There were four of last year’s U18 team playing on that team, so there is a strong level of natural progression and it’s something we work on to make sure that it stays strong.’