Regis Sonnes’ final game ends in dramatic loss
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
TOM Ferguson admits it will take time to heal the wounds of Bandon’s heart-breaking Ulster Bank League Division 2C promotion/relegation play-off loss.
With a place in senior rugby at stake, Bandon pushed Bruff all the way on their home patch and the teams were level, 17 apiece, after 78 minutes – but the Limerick side then struck for a late try to dash Bandon’s hopes of playing senior rugby for the first time.
Michael Carroll’s 79th-minute try means that Bruff hold onto their Division 2C status while Bandon will remain in the junior ranks.
To get so close to senior rugby and miss out is hard to take, admits Bandon captain Ferguson.
‘The aim at the start of the year was to win the Munster Junior League and we hadn’t really put any thought into going senior, the AIL, the round-robin stage until we actually got there. But once we did get there and get so close, it’s tough to take missing out,’ Ferguson said.
‘We’ll look back and realise that winning the league is a mighty achievement – that took a lot of work. It’s been a great season but it’s hard to look past the defeat right now.’
Bandon came into this winner-take-all game off the back of winning the Munster Junior League and finishing second in the round-robin section of the AIL play-offs, beating both Ashbourne and Instonians.
Travelling to Bruff on Saturday didn’t knock them off their stride as they gave as good as they got against an experienced team well used to the senior ranks. Christian Mulcahy’s 16th-minute try pushed Bandon ahead but Bruff led 14-7 by half time after tries by David O’Grady and Cillian Rea.
Bruff went 17-7 ahead in the second half but two unconverted tries from Gearoid Crowley and Kerry Desmond, the second in the 72nd minute, levelled the game, 17-17, and Bandon had the momentum.
‘We went behind and then we got it back level and we were more in the ascendancy then. We were on the front foot but they got the break, they got through and eventually went over,’ Ferguson explained.
‘We had time for the restart and got the ball back – but they pushed us into touch and that was that.’
That late try from Bruff was a cruel blow at a time when extra-time was looming as Michael Carroll came up with the defining moment of this clash.
This defeat also marked the end of the season and was also Regis Sonnes’ final game in charge of Bandon. The French coach has made a telling impact in his two years in West Cork and now goes on to take up his new role as coach with Toulouse.
‘Without Regis there would have been no junior cup last season or junior league this season,’ Ferguson said.
‘A lot of people have put in a lot of work too, like Keith Fuller, and the lads in the background, Dan Murphy, Conor Slattery, everyone – but the knowledge that Regis brought was frightening.
‘When you consider that he is going on to become the head coach at Toulouse that puts it in perspective just how good and respected a coach he is.
‘He bought into community and the town too, and that was a big thing. He’ll be a massive loss and it’s a tough job to try and replace him.
Bruff: Graham Whelan; Brian Fanning, Jack O’Grady, Tony Cahill, Liam Treacy; David O’Grady, Cian Clifford; David Horan, John Clery, Keith Laffan, Sean Hartigan, Neilus Keogh, Cillian Rea, Odhran Ring, Danny Keogh.
Replacements: Paddy Clery, Michael Carroll, Michael Cooke, Brendan Deady, Brian Cahill.
Bandon: Olan Crowley, Christian Mulcahy, Billy Crowley, Kerry Desmond, Gearoid Crowley; Rhys Harrold, Santiago Gonzalez; Michael Murphy, Scott Kingston, Timothy Crowley, Cian Buttimer, Enda Phelan, Conall Bromwich, Ryan Hayes, Tom Ferguson.
Replacements: Aidan Slattery, Mark Phelan, Kieran Phelan, Gearoid O’Leary, Jerry Crowley.