BANDON’S Munster Junior League Division 1 title last year, the club’s first in 25 years, was almost blemish-free.
Thirteen games saw 12 wins – seven with bonus points, including all of the last four outings – with just one defeat, in their second game of the campaign.
Having started with a 66-7 win away to Cobh Pirates, Bandon hosted Skibbereen at Old Chapel but the visitors took the points, running in four tries as they triumphed 29-3. To put in context, the only other game where they conceded more than 20 was in the last match of the season at home to Newcastlewest, when Bandon scored seven tries in a 39-24 win, with the Limerick side on a try-scoring missing in a bid to get a bonus point that might have earned them a top-four spot and a space in the All-Ireland Cup.
This Sunday at 2.30pm in Skibbereen, the two West Cork sides come face-to-face again, with Bandon lying in third and Skibb sixth. Bandon Director of Rugby André Human, new to the club this season, is aware of last year’s result but doesn’t feel it necessarily provides extra motivation.
‘It’s last year, it happened, there’s nothing we can do about it only focus on what’s ahead,’ the South African says.
‘Obviously, when it’s a derby, with two neighbouring towns and a lot of history, there is probably more of an edge, but it’s important that we play what we practice.
‘I love games like these, they’re excited and I’m looking forward to it, I’m sure everybody is. We’ll just give it our best, I’ll tell you after if that’s good enough.’
Like his predecessor, Frenchman Régis Sonnes, Human is operating a dual role between the rugby club and Bandon Grammar School. Coming into a successful team can be daunting, but he’s keen to focus on the basics.
‘There are always expectations after winning the league,’ he says.
‘Like I said to the team, who it really benefits is the opposition as they raise their game 20 percent against you.
‘We have to forget about last year, it would be great if we could repeat it but you take it game by game. It’s Skibbereen this week and we’re preparing for that, we don’t look any further.
‘We had a tough day against Newcastlewest, we lost 21-13, it was two tries each but we’re struggling a bit at the moment in terms of kicking our points. It was one of those that could have gone either way but we bounced back well against Crosshaven, who had done well against Clonmel and Richmond.’
Bandon beat Crosshaven 53-15 last weekend. Captain Kerry Desmond scored two tries, six conversions and two penalties for a 28-point total. Santiago Gonzalez, Jerry Crowley, Matthew Crowley, Tim Crowley and Mark Bateman scored one try each.
Having begun with three straight wins, Skibb lost to Kilfeacle & District but bounced back well to beat Richmond 11-10 before a 52-14 reversal against Clonmel, the table-toppers who had won three in a row before Bandon dethroned them last year.
‘It’s a tough block of games,’ says Skibb coach Denis McCarthy, ‘they’re three of the top teams in the division.
‘We have a good squad but it’s a small squad and we’ve lost Eric Donnelly to a long-term injury and Dave Jennings, one of our more experienced players, has been out too but he might be back.’
Last year, Skibb finished 11th, winning four and losing nine. Having already matched that tally of victories, McCarthy is targeting an improvement.
‘Realistically, it’s a young squad, a lot of the older fellas have gone, we still have Kieran Shannon and Dave Jennings but we have a good few in their early 20s. It’s very much one game at a time. Ideally, we’d make the top four, but in this stage of our development, before the season started, you’d have been saying upper midtable would have been realistic.’