BANDON captured the Munster Junior Challenge Shield title after a fantastic victory against Mallow in Ballincollig on Sunday.
This was the third meeting between the teams this season and although Bandon had come out on top in each of the previous meetings they were taking nothing for granted in their attempt to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final.
The early stages were fiercely contested and with a steady drizzle falling it was apparent that the conditions would have a role to play in the outcome.
With the wind at their backs Bandon were putting some good phases together and were rewarded on 10 minutes when, after an excellent lineout move, Kevin Brophy came into the line and set Mighty Okafor free, who was tackled just short of the line. The ball was recycled quickly and a fine carry by JP Lucey set up a ruck under the Mallow posts.
Scrum half Richie Walsh saw his opportunity to duck inside the cover and force his way over the line for the opening score. This was converted to leave the score at 7 – 0.
Mallow were having a hard time establishing any field position with Kevin Brophy at full back, in particular, returning any of their kicks with interest, often starting dangerous counter attacks. Soon after Mallow were penalised at a five-metre scrum and Richie Walsh, again, made no mistake, to extend Bandon’s lead.
Bandon continued to probe and, using their lineout as an attacking platform, came very close to a second try with Gearoid Crowley and Kevin Brophy both stopped inches short by last-gasp Mallow tackling. The Mallow side was really hanging on at this point but managed to win a vital turnover to clear the danger.
Bandon kept the pressure on though and finally, after forcing a 22, a great catch by Gearoid Crowley set up an attacking platform. Conor Pullen made a fine outside break to get through the defence and finish off a fine individual score to make it 17 – 0 after the conversion. This was a useful half-time lead but the conditions were worsening.
Having lost influential play maker Sean Óg Murphy at half time to injury, Bandon realised that there was still plenty of work left to do.
Bandon suffered a further setback early in the second half, losing their other half back Richie Walsh to injury. This led to reshuffle in the Bandon back line, but to their credit they continued to press despite playing against the conditions. Mallow were penalised at the ruck and Jack Murphy made no mistake from the tee to push the lead out to 20 – 0.
Mallow responded well to this setback though and set about making inroads into Bandon’s lead through some powerful driving play from their forwards. Bandon were defending well and some powerful defence kept Mallow at bay, but they were finding it increasingly difficult to clear their lines and play in Mallow’s half.
A sequence of pick and drives near the Bandon line finally resulted in a penalty and a yellow card for Bandon. Shortly afterwards the pressure told and the Mallow winger squeezed in at the corner for an unconverted try.
This was a great boost in confidence for Mallow and they continued to try and seize the initiative. But Bandon stepped up to the mark and some huge hits in defence from Colin Jackson and Dermot Robinson, particularly, helped keep Mallow at bay.
The match was incredibly attritional at this point and Bandon lost a further two players to injury, Jack Murphy and Colin Jackson, but they weathered all that Mallow could throw at them.
Some great carries by Aidan Slattery, Michael Beecher and an excellent performance by Gerry Crowley at scrum half helped wrest back the initiative for Bandon and they finished the match in the ascendancy, pushing for another score when the final whistle went.
This was a great achievement for a young Bandon side to win a Munster title and a great reward for the experienced players like JP Lucey, Des Prendegast, Tim Crowley and Mike Murphy, who have endured some hard years. Indeed it had been 14 years since Bandon last won a Munster title at junior 1 level.
They have a chance of further honours this Sunday when Clanwilliam come to Old Chapel where a win would guarantee them the Munster Junior League Division 2 title.
Bandon: Tim Crowley, Scott Kingston, Colin Jackson, Des Prendegast, JP Lucey, Nicky Walsh, Tom Ferguson, Dermot Robinson, Richie Walsh, Gearoid Crowley, Ogie Murphy, Conor Pullen, Jack Murphy, Mighty Okafor, Kevin Brophy, Micheal Beecher, Gerry Crowley, Mike Murphy, Christian Mulcahy, Aidan Slattery.