‘IT couldn’t get any tougher, really’ – that was Bandon football manager Colm Aherne’s first thoughts when he saw their group in the Bon Secours Senior A Football Championship.
Bandon have been drawn in Group A alongside West Cork rivals O’Donovan Rossa and Dohenys, as well as Mid Cork outfit Beál Áthan Ghaorthaidh.
There are no easy games in this group, says Aherne who is back in charge of Bandon footballers this year.
‘It will be as tight as tight could be,’ he says.
‘It’s great to be able to challenge yourself. Skibb will be seen as the favourites. I thought their game against St Michael’s last year was the pick of any game at all grades. Look at last year and Bandon drew with Dohenys, while Ballingeary are a very good side too.’
Bandon and Dohenys were also in the same SAFC group last season and it finished all square, 0-12 apiece, while 2020 defeated semi-finalists O’Donovan Rossa beat Ballingeary 0-17 to 1-10 in a SAFC group game last year.
Drawing Skibbereen in this year’s championship jumps out to Aherne.
‘For our lads, and especially the older lads – the likes of Pat Prendergast, James Walsh, Darren Crowley, Cian O’Mahony – it’s not that long ago that these guys were facing Skibb’s second team when we were down junior, so it’s a big thing for Bandon footballers to be playing against Skibb seniors. It will be really exciting. That derby element brings that extra crunch element, too,’ he says.
Another side story is that both Aherne, who works as a Garda in Carrigaline, and Dohenys manager Declan O’Dwyer, who is based in Bishopstown, are in the same Garda unit. That’s a game the new Dohenys senior football manager will look forward to.
‘Bandon and ourselves would both say that we didn’t play to our full potential when the teams met last year. Either team could have won that game and there’s not much between us,’ O’Dwyer says as Dohenys get ready to return to training next week.
‘It’s a very competitive group but, to be honest, any team in this grade is good. We are finding our feet at Senior A and it’s giving the lads something to aim at, rather than just surviving.’
Similar to Aherne, the Skibb clash is one Dohenys are excited about.
‘It’s good to have a local derby, we haven’t played Skibb in a number of years since we would have played in senior. That will focus the minds,’ O’Dwyer says.
Elsewhere, Bantry Blues, under new manager Colm Cronin, have been drawn in Group C alongside Fermoy, the loser of Mallow/Éire Óg, and Clyda Rovers. Bantry didn’t progress past the group stage last season.
In the SAFC, two teams will advance from each group of four to the play-off stages, as six teams qualify for the knock-out stages. The two top group winners qualify for the semi-finals and the remaining group winner and the three second-placed teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
2021 Cork SAFC draw
Group A – O’Donovan Rossa, Bandon, Beál Áthan Ghaorthaidh, Dohenys.
Group B – Bishopstown, St Michael’s, Kiskeam, Winner of Knocknagree/Kanturk.
Group C – Fermoy, Loser of Mallow/Éire Óg, Clyda Rovers, Bantry Blues.