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Bantry Blues rise to the challenge to book their place in Cork PIFC semi-finals

October 5th, 2019 3:00 PM

By Ger McCarthy

Bantry Blues' Shane McSweeney is held up by Bandon's James O'Donovan during the Cork PIFC quarter-final replay at Dunmanway.

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Bantry Blues 1-14
Bandon 1-12

GER McCARTHY REPORTS

BANTRY Blues are in bonus territory now, says their selector Peter Murphy, after they booked their spot in the county premier intermediate football championship semi-finals.
But Murphy insists the men from out west won’t rest on their laurels either when the square up to Éire Óg in their Cork PIFC quarter-final on Saturday, October 12th.
‘Éire Óg are a seasoned team and have a Cork player on every line of the pitch,’ Murphy pointed out after watching his side beat Bandon in a quarter-final replay at Dunmanway on Sunday.
‘Bantry are in bonus territory now and have a serious mountain to climb. We have good climbers though and will give it a good go.’
They’ll take plenty of confidence from their performance and win against Bandon. Like the drawn game, this was another titanic battle and the outcome hung in the balance until the final minutes.
Behind 1-11 to 0-13 with six minutes remaining, Bantry conjured up the unlikeliest of goals. Half-back Kevin Coakley gained possession and advanced towards Bandon’s goal. The Blues player was still a long distance out but curled his shot under the crossbar and into the net, much to the delight of the Bantry supporters in attendance.
Whether Coakley meant it or not is irrelevant now but at the time, his goal provided the catalyst for Bantry to go on and win a quarter-final that ebbed and flowed from the opening minutes.
‘Kevin Coakley’s goal? Ah yeah, of course he meant it. Sure he is doing that all year in training, into the top corner. Not a bother on him,’ Bantry selector Peter Murphy stated shortly after the final whistle.
‘This team has been quarter-finalists for the past number of years. Today is a big win for us because we really needed to break into the last four both for the players’ confidence and to bring them on. They need to learn how to win tight games like that one, need to be able to win ugly.
‘Today was a massive, massive win. This could be the making of them and hopefully they will kick on from here.’
Bantry enjoyed the better. The Blues led 0-5 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter thanks to a pair of Tim Foley points (two frees), a Stephen Coughlan brace (one free) and Shane O’Neill point.
Mark Sugrue was Bandon’s only scorer until late in the opening half. Bandon deservedly led 0-6 to 0-5 before Eoghan O’Donovan split the posts to extend their advantage. Donal Casey had prevented Bandon from scoring a certain goal with a point-blank stop prior to Shane McSweeney floating over his side’s first score in 19 minutes. Bandon changed ends 0-7 to 0-6 ahead but lost Rob O’Driscoll to a black card shortly before the interval.
Bantry’s tactical decision to run directly at the Bandon defence reaped immediate dividends during the third quarter. The Blues won five frees from which Tim Foley (three) and Stephen Coughlan (two) converted.
Aidan O’Mahony helped Bandon stay in touch but Barry Collins missed a great opportunity to find the net after after 41 minutes. David Daly fisted a point in reply and moved Bantry 0-12 to 0-9 clear with 16 minutes to go.
At that juncture, a dominant Bantry appeared primed to go on and win until a devastating three-minute period underlined Bandon’s quality. Jonathan Mulcahy strode through the Bantry defence and walloped an unstoppable shot into the net to level the score.
Eoghan O’Donovan converted a free prior to an even better score from open play and suddenly a rampant Bandon were 1-11 to 0-12 in front heading into the closing stages.
Bantry dug deep and retook control around the centre of the field thanks to Sean O’Leary and Ruairi Deane’s persistence. Stephen Coughlan took his tally to six points from a free but Bandon remained a point ahead with six minutes to go.
That was the moment Kevin Coakley gained possession and found the top corner of the net. Fortuitous or not, Coakley’s goal visibly deflated Bandon until Mark Sugrue converted a close-range free to leave the bare minimum between the sides as the clock ticked past 60 minutes.
A frantic injury-time period saw Bandon unable to find a way past Bantry’s reinvigorated defence and the Blues’ supporters were celebrating once Ruairi Deane cut in and hand-passed the ball over the bar.
An even bigger effort is required to overcome Éire Óg in the semi-finals.

Scorers
Bantry Blues:
Stephen Coughlan 0-6 (5f); Tim Foley 0-4 (3f); Kevin Coakley 1-0; Shane O’Neill, Shane McSweeney, David Daly, Ruairi Deane 0-1 each.
Bandon: Mark Sugrue 0-7 (4f, 1 45); Eoghan O’Donovan 0-3 (1f); Jonathan Mulcahy 1-0; Aidan O’Mahony, Darren Crowley 0-1 each.
Bantry Blues: Donal Casey (captain); Eoghan Minihane, Ronan O’Mahony, Billy Foley; Eoghan O’Shea, Joe Downey, Kevin Coakley; Sean O’Leary, Ruairi Deane; James Casey, Shane O’Neill, Kevin Casey; Tim Foley, Shane McSweeney, Stephen Coughlan.
Subs: David Daly for J Downey (ht), Shane Murray for J Casey (53).
Bandon: Pat Prendergast; Brian Crowley, James O’Donovan, Phillip Crowley; Rob O’Driscoll, David Crowley, Cian O’Mahony; Peter Murphy (captain), Robert Long; Eoghan O’Donovan, Darren Crowley, Aidan O’Mahony; Jonathan Mulcahy, Barry Collins, Mark Sugrue.
Subs: Donough Lucey for R O’Driscoll (30, black card), Ronan Crowley for A O’Mahony (56).
Referee: Alan Long (Argideen Rangers). 
 

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