BY DENIS HURLEY
EVEN in times past, it was rare for clubs to be in a position to win doubles at county championship level, but the modern era, with its extra games, imposes greater obstacles.
Valley Rovers won the PIFC and IHC in 2009 while Grenagh were intermediate football and junior A hurling champions in 2013, but Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn will provide a unique situation.
Bandon do battle with Fermoy in the PIHC final, with both teams targeting doubles, as Bandon meet Rockchapel in the IFC decider the following Sunday while Fermoy meet Kiskeam in the premier intermediate football a further week after that.
‘It’s remarkable the way it has worked out,’ says Bandon selector Don McCarthy.
‘For a club to put two teams out – two premiers for Fermoy and a premier and an intermediate for ourselves – in the one year is an incredible achievement.
‘I’m sure that they’d be in the same position as ourselves, we’d have the bones of 21 or 22 players that togged out last Saturday in contention for a start this weekend. That’s a fantastic achievement by any club in the county.
‘It’s incredible at the moment. The club is a remarkable place to be, there are fellas over there pinching themselves.
‘You’ve a core of players that are just giving it 200 percent and it’s paying off.’
For a sizeable quotient of the Bandon team, Sunday will be a sixth county final – following the IHC deciders of 2007, ’08 and ’11, the premier loss to Ballinhassig in 2012 and the junior A football win over Uibh Laoire last year – with a seventh to come. McCarthy hopes that experience will prove valuable.
‘There is an element of the older players maybe looking at it as if it’s their twilight years and they’d love to go out with a couple of county medals under their hat,’ he says.
‘For the younger lads, it’s fantastic, it’s a great confidence-boost to be playing with these guys as well.
‘There are some fantastic leaders there that they are looking up to as well. I was involved myself back against Fr O’Neills and Carrigaline those two years, unfortunately it didn’t work out but they came good in 2011.
‘Then we had 2012, I suppose it was a learning curve going into the premier grade the first year up and Ballinhassig had more experience than us but I hope that that will stand to us on Sunday.’
Bandon report a clean bill of health on the injury front. They come in off the back of a 2-12 to 2-11 win over Mallow in the quarter-finals, with McCarthy pleased with most aspects though hopeful that a defensive meanness can be restored.
‘We’re always looking at ways to improve,’ he says.
‘We started that game very well, but we conceded a couple of goals then. We were always looking at cutting down on that, really – one of our philosophies from the start this year was to keep goals off the scoreboard as much as possible.
‘The workrate, we were very happy with, the lads put in a huge effort because we knew that we were up against a very strong Mallow team that were going to die on the field right up to the very last minute.
‘To be fair, the lads gave us that and we’ll be looking for exactly the same on Sunday because we’re up against a cracking Fermoy team.’
In their semi, Fermoy overcame Cloyne after a replay, something which underlines their strength, McCarthy feels.
‘Cloyne are a very tough, seasoned team, they’re hard to beat,’ he says.
‘It takes a hugely strong, committed team to come out on the right side of the result against Cloyne and we know that we’re facing a very tough battle.’