BY DENIS HURLEY
HISTORY beckons for Bandon AFC this Sunday with the possibility of reaching the FAI Intermediate Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Bandon travel to Mahon in Cork city to face Ringmahon Rangers, a game that has a 2pm kick-off time.
Preparations have been hampered by the lack of regular games since beating Dublin’s Home Farm in the previous round at the start of December, though Bandon were back on the field in the Donie Forde Trophy quarter-final against Cobh Wanderers last weekend.
While their interest in that competition was ended with a 3-1 defeat, attacker Brendan Cullen was glad to have been back in action.
‘We’ve been training away all the time,’ he says, ‘but when you’re not playing competitively, it’s only natural that you lose that sharpness.
‘You could see that last week, for the first 10 or 15 minutes, we weren’t at the races at all but at least we have that game out of the way now. Peter (Jones) was adamant that we were going to play last week as he didn’t want us going in cold into the intermediate cup.
‘It was our home game but we tried switching it to Cobh when we couldn’t hold it, then they weren’t able to either so in the end we rented Douglas Hall’s all-weather pitch.
‘This week now it’s about trying to work on what went wrong so that we’re ready for the Ringmahon game.’
Reaching the last 16 has already qualified Bandon for the FAI Senior Cup. They last managed that in 2013, having also done so in 2003 – with a few survivors from then still in white and black.
‘I could be killed for this!’ Cullen laughs, ‘I think Ger Harrington was playing then and Eddie Andepu was on the panel too. He’s back with us now and helping out with the coaching so it’s good to have that kind of experience.
‘Even since the Shelbourne game, though, the squad has changed a lot. We have a lot of younger players and there are even a few 17-year-olds getting runs off the bench. For them to be able to taste what it’s like to go this far in the intermediate cup and then play in the senior cup is huge going forward.’
Before thoughts of that, though, Cullen knows that a severe obstacle awaits in the shape of Ringmahon. While Bandon are in the Premier Division of the Munster Senior League and Ringmahon are in Division 1, he’s taking nothing for granted.
‘Ringmahon is always a tough place to go, so we know exactly what we’ll be up against,’ he says.
‘There’ll be hundreds there and, with the way their pitch is, the crowd are up really close to you, no matter what part it is. If it was our home game in the Town Park in Bandon, because of the bank the crowd are a bit further away.
‘We’ll relish it though, it’ll be a great challenge and we’re looking forward to it.’
Cullen will celebrate his 24th birthday on Sunday and is hoping to mark it with a goal but the Bishopstown Credit Union employee was once more preoccupied with preventing shots on target rather than scoring them, only converting to attack when playing at youths level with Cork City.
‘I was with City two years and I played centre-back the first year,’ he says.
‘The second season then, we had five centre-backs so I wasn’t really getting a look-in, I suggested to the manager, Paul Bowdren, that he should give me a run up front.
‘We had a pre-season friendly against a junior team and he threw me on late on and I got a goal. Then the next game was against Carrigaline United in the league cup and we were losing 2-1 and I came on again, I scored one and set up the other and we won 3-2.
‘After that I stayed up front and I’ve stayed there ever since.’
Bandon manager Peter Jones has the luxury of being able to choose from a full-strength squad, but he too cites the lay-off, given that their last league game was in November.
‘The game last weekend was on an all-weather pitch, so you can’t even gauge too much from that,’ he says.
‘Effectively, we’ve been off since the start of December and it’s hard to get fellas ready for a big game. We played them last season, we won at home and they beat us there, so it’s going to be tough, no question about that.’