RONAN Crowley scored 1-10 as Bandon took the unofficial West Cork hurling title with victory over neighbours Newcestown at Clonakilty.
Having gone down on a 4-13 to 2-8 scoreline in last September’s third-round tie, the Lilywhites atoned here. Crowley was absent for the 2018 tie and so was Donough Lucey, with both putting in commanding performances, while Jason Hickey’s shift was boundless.
Despite trailing by 0-5 to 0-1 early on, Bandon reeled off 1-4 without reply between the 15th and 24th minutes, Crowley with the goal on 22. Though Newcestown did tie the game five times in the second half, they didn’t lead again.
Bandon manager Niall O’Halloran, back after a year out, couldn’t speak highly enough about his players.
‘I can’t comment on last year because I wasn’t here,’ he said, ‘but first rounds mean a lot to clubs like Bandon, because we’re not up here long enough to say, “We’re just going to peak in the summer.”
‘It was about coming today and bringing the performance. We’ve trained really hard but – and I know it’s the same for Newcestown – we’ve only had 14 training sessions.
‘Six league games, then three league games, it’s stop-start, it’s about dealing with the premier intermediate footballers and making sure we keep the players fresh, but I think you could see we finished the game very strong at the end.’
Daniel Twomey and Carthach Keane were to the fore as Newcestown began well, but Bandon got on top around the middle and closed the gap to a point. When Darren Crowley forced a turnover from a puckout, the way was clear for his brother Ronan and, though he could have gone for an easier option, he backed himself a fired a shot beyond Kieran Kelly to the top corner.
By half-time, Bandon were 1-6 to 0-8 in front, Cha Dullea putting in a huge shift in midfield, but Newcestown were level within four minutes of the restart after points from teenager David Buckley and Luke Meade.
From there, the rest of the third quarter was a free-taking contest between Daniel Twomey and Ronan Crowley, but Bandon never fell behind. They moved two ahead after a super Hickey point and while Twomey closed the gap again, three in a row by Bandon, one by Darren Crowley and two by Ronan, had Bandon four ahead and Mark Sugrue might have had a clinching goal but Kelly was quick off his line.
Newcestown had it back to three in injury time but Bandon’s defence wasn’t in the mood to allow an equalising goal.
‘We stuck to our process,’ O’Halloran said, ‘We’ve a couple of different ways of playing, we switched it around a bit in the second half, we went a bit more direct at times.
‘We said in the dressing room, “If we go three up, let’s go four up, if we go two down, let’s not let it go to three.”
‘It was about sticking to the way we were talking about for the last number of weeks. The lucky thing here is that I plugged back in after two years, mainly because there’s a great group of lads here and we’re trying to make a little bit of history.
‘When Bandon history is rewritten, I honestly think that this team will go down as a great bunch of lads. In the group after, I just thanked them, for me being involved as an outsider, it’s a great day.’
Newcestown manager Jim O’Sullivan didn’t have any complaints with the outcome.
‘They got a run on us early on in the game, and we just couldn’t get to grips with them, even in the second half,’ he said.
‘They were hungrier, they picked off score after score, and that’s just the way the game goes.
‘They were bound to be hungrier after last year, we knew that was going to happen, it was up to us to get our own house in order, and it just wasn’t there for us.
‘You can’t take anything from Bandon, or us, until we see the video. They just outfought us and outscored us, that’s the game.
‘You have to take the winning, you have to take the losing. We’ll just have to lick our wounds and drive on.’
O’Halloran was pleased with such a compliment from his opposite number, feeling his side stood up strongly to the challenge.
‘In the first half in front of the bench there was a phase of play, six or seven contacts, and we gave away a free, but it set a tone,’ he said.
‘We conceded eight frees to four in the first half, we wanted to address that and be better in the tackle. I think when we sorted that out, we do have the forwards.
‘We got our set-up right and got our tactics right. Jim is a good hurling guy, and if he says it straight out, we outfought them, then that’s the case.
‘That was brilliant championship hurling and it meant everything to everybody.
‘I’m just so happy that the players played to their potential, the one thing we wanted today was a performance.
‘They were disappointed with how last year went. My job is just to facilitate the players and help get to the best level they can be. I just thought that we died out there in the second half, we weren’t letting it go.
‘I’m very, very proud to be involved with them.’
Bandon: Ronan Crowley 1-10 (8f, 1 65), Adam Murphy 0-3, Mark Sugrue, Donough Lucey, Darren Crowley, Jason Hickey 0-1 each.
Newcestown: Daniel Twomey 0-8 (6f, 2 65), Jack Meade (sidelines), Luke Meade 0-3 each, Carthach Keane 0-2, David Buckley 0-1.
Bandon: Pat Prendergast; Philip Crowley, Peter Murphy, James O’Donovan; James Walsh, Donough Lucey, Joe Harrington; Cha Dullea, Cian O’Mahony; Darren Crowley, Jason Hickey, Adam Murphy; Mark Sugrue, Mike Cahalane, Ronan Crowley.
Subs: Eoghan O’Donovan for Harrington (36), Pat Barry for Dullea (48).
Newcesown: Kieran Kelly; Micheál McSweeney, Greg Murphy, John Crowley; Fionn Keane, Conor O’Neill, Ger O’Driscoll; Jack Meade, Tadhg Twomey; Carthach Keane, Daniel Twomey, Luke Meade; David Buckley, Trevor Horgan, Colm Dinneen.
Subs: Eoin Kelly for Dinneen (40), Gearóid O’Donovan for O’Driscoll (45), Seán O’Donovan for Buckley (55).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Éire Óg).