BY DENIS HURLEY
BANDON were the first-ever winners of the Munster Senior Cup, beating Garryowen to claim the 1885-86 edition of the competition.
Victory in the junior cup remained elusive, however. In both 1973 and 1992, the club reached the final but lost to Cork Constitution’s second team on each occasion.
In 2016, they made it to the semi-finals, but lost out to Young Munster.
Bandon front row Tim Crowley was beginning to wonder if he was fated not to taste provincial glory with the club.
‘I was, to be honest,’ he says.
‘It was always the dream, a goal I always had was to try to win a junior cup medal.
‘There were years when I thought we were a million miles away from it. It wasn’t too long ago that we were down in Division 2 and struggling to stay there.
‘That’s only five or six years ago, and back then the thought of winning a junior cup would have been a long way off.’
Somewhere along the way, Crowley had gone from greenhorn to one of the stalwarts of the team.
‘This is my 13th year,’ he says.
‘Myself and Mike Murphy, we started when we were 17. I wouldn’t have been starting back then, Tim Crowley – Tim Crowley Senior, I call him! – took me under his wing. I was sub for maybe two years and then starting from 19 on.’
The experienced base was augmented by a flush of youth, and Crowley believes that that was the key in propelling Bandon to be regular challengers near the top of the Munster Junior League Division 1.
‘There was a great crop of young fellas came through from the U19 All-Ireland-winning side,’ he says.
‘That was a huge boost to us and then there were a few more of us – Mike Murphy, Kevin Lucey, Des Prendergast – we managed to stay together and all of a sudden we had a nice balance of youth and experience.
‘We were lucky enough to hold on to the U19s because Dan Murphy, Keith Fuller and Conor Slattery, who had been coaching them, came through to the junior set-up. It all kind of came together nicely about three or four years ago and we built on it from there.’
Wins over UCC, Galbally, Cashel and Clonmel earned them a spot in the final in Thomond Park back in April – against Young Munster, their conquerors from the year before. That loss did at least prove educational.
‘We lost to them above there, that was a poor outing,’ Crowley says.
‘Not making excuses but we had a lot of injuries the same day and the wheels just fell off the wagon a small bit, we just came up short.
‘There was a big learning curve and we learned from it. We kind of had it at the back of our heads going through the junior cup campaign the following year and it helped us.’
Running out at Thomond Park in front of a large crowd for such a big game had the potential to be daunting, though as things transpired, Bandon channelled the nerves well, winning 27-14. Was there a need to block out the occasion and play the game?
‘I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t,’ Crowley says.
‘It was a big occasion and it’s such an historic venue, there was huge support came up from Bandon too.
‘I suppose I’ve fierce time for our new French coach, Régis Sonnes, he really had us focused and driven. He had us in the mindset that we were there to do a job and everything else was put to the back of our minds.
‘Fellas were focused going into and it all worked out well in the end. It was a lovely occasion, not just for the team but for the past members and the club as a whole.
‘It was a memorable occasion, a great night in Bandon.’
The Cork County Cup was also claimed, beating Old Christians Muskerry and Cobh Pirates. Now, the hope is that they can add a league title to the silverware haul.
They rounded off 2017 with a win over previous leaders Richmond to move level on top with Clonmel, and Crowley is keen to kick on.
‘Yeah, we’ve made no bones about it, it’s the aim for this season,’ he says.
‘We had a rocky start, there was a disappointing loss to Skibbereen and we lost to Kanturk in the county cup, but since then things have been going away fine.
‘Hopefully, we can continue the good form into the new year.’