GER McCARTHY chats to Mark Sugrue about Bandon’s Cork IFC campaign
IT is rare for any club to achieve dual club football and hurling success with virtually the same squad inside a calendar year. That’s what makes Bandon’s heroics all the more newsworthy as the Carbery club claimed two county titles in the space of seven days last October.
Winning both the Cork IFC and PIHC trophies, the Lilywhites blazed a trail of glory to add to a successful 2015 campaign that delivered Carbery and county JAFC triumphs.
Mark Sugrue has been an integral part of Bandon’s resurgence to the forefront of Cork GAA and unequivocal when asked about his squad’s ambitions at the beginning of what turned out to be another momentous year for the West Cork club.
‘Right from the outset, our plan was to win the Cork IFC,’ stated Sugrue.
‘There was no talk of just staying in the intermediate grade or putting in one or two good performances. Our plan, right at the start of the year, was to win it (IFC) and being totally honest we thought we had a better chance of becoming football rather than hurling champions.
‘We got a bit of a reality check the first day out against Cill na Martra and ended up losing. Looking back, we were coming into that game on a bit of a high after easily winning our first five or six league games. We certainly got caught on the hop that day against a battle-hardened team that bullied us in the first half.’
Bandon’s response couldn’t have been more positive as the Lilywhites embarked on a dominant run, defeating Clonakilty, Ballydesmond, Glanworth and Mitchelstown to setup a semi-final rematch against the club that inflicted their first round loss.
Sugrue produced plenty of standout individual displays during that timeframe; none more so than his personal haul of 4-9 in the quarter-final defeat of Mitchelstown at Caherlag. Typically, the corner forward prefers to heap praise on his fellow team mates rather than focus on individual performances.
‘The main reason I ended up managing to get so many scores was Adam Murphy’s and Barry Collins’ work rate alongside me in the full-forward line,’ Sugrue commented.
‘What it boiled down to was, on their day, our opponents could end marking one of us out of the game but never all three. Add to that, the way our half-forward line worked hard to make space and deliver quality ball into is and you see why Bandon managed to go on such an impressive run.
‘As a result, this year ended up being my best ever as a Bandon footballer. Yet, when you are given the number 15 jersey then you should be the guy on the end of those moves and ensuring you get the scores. I was happy with how the year went for me personally but the most important thing was winning a county title.’
Ahead of an IFC final showdown with Rockchapel, overcoming Cill na Martra in the last four was vindication for all of Bandon’s hard work and a result that demonstrated they belonged at that grade. Revenge for their first round loss was not a factor but unsurprisingly Sugrue and his team mates produced their best performance of the year that afternoon.
‘That semi-final win over Cill na Martra was massive and some of the best football Bandon has played in over a decade,’ said Sugrue.
‘Our first half performance in that game is still being talked about, the way we blew them away and kicked something like ten points before half time.
‘Everyone played out of their skins that day, from one to 15 and not just a handful of individuals.
‘As for the final itself, the feeling in the dressing room after beating Rockchapel was one of relief more than anything else. We stumbled over the line in that one because we had such a tough three weeks in the build-up including back-to-back semi-finals with Mallow (hurling) and Cill na Martra. We were a bit dead at the start but managed to pull it back in the second half thanks to the experience we have gained of being involved in and winning big games over the last two years.’