IN the match programme notes for last Sunday’s county JAFC final, Bandon captain Pat Prendergast name checked winning his first West Cork football title with his club in 2007 as his best memory as a player.
But even that triumph will have to sit in the shadows of Sunday’s county junior A football final win against Iveleary – a result that sees Bandon crowned county champions and promoted to the intermediate football ranks for the first time since 1993.
‘This is as good as it gets,’ Bandon captain Prendergast (35) reflected after Sunday’s 3-11 to 2-9 final win against Iveleary at Páirc Uí Rinn.
‘It was in 1997 that I made my debut and it’s been a long road to get to here. There’s been a lot of heartbreak along the way, but it’s all worth it for this feeling now.’
It was a day to remember for Bandon GAA Club, but for the experienced campaigners like Prendergast, Kevin Lucey and Alan Johnson, who all made their debuts in the late 1990s, this was an extra special occasion.
‘I played Sciath na Scol with a couple of those lads. Myself, Alan, Kevin, we did everything together and we have travelled a long road, so to win it with the likes of them makes it all worthwhile,’ the Bandon goalkeeper beamed.
‘At the end of every year we say that we are packing it in, but I’m delighted that we gave it one more year.’
Now Bandon look forward to the Munster series and a provincial junior football quarter-final against the Tipp champions, Golden/Kilfeacle. Prendergast commented: ‘Everything is a bonus from here on in. To be honest, nobody even thought about a Munster series, but now that we’re in it, we’ll give it our best shot.’
It has taken Bandon eight games, and eight victories, to first negotiate through West Cork and then the county series, and Prendergast admitted that the thought of having to start from scratch again next year, if things went pear-shaped against Iveleary last Sunday, acted as an extra spur.
‘I wouldn’t call it pressure, it’s more motivation, the thought of having to go back to the first round of the West Cork again, which is notorious as the toughest junior division to win. We won it in 2011 but we didn’t get past the semi-final in the few years after before making the breakthrough this year,’ the Bandon captain said.
‘The thought of having to go back to the very start again motivated our guys. We knew (in the lead up to Sunday) that we were close to where we want to be, and we did everything we could to finish off the job.’
A Garda in Clonakilty, Prendergast added: ‘We have an outstanding hurling setup in the club but football in Bandon needed this boost. We were going along as a junior football club there for a while and we needed this, we needed to move up a grade because we feel we have the footballers to compete at the next level.’
Looking back on the win against Iveleary, Prendergast feels the overall strength of Bandon told in the end, with each player standing up and being counted for.
‘We got the goals at the right times and we needed to because Iveleary are an outstanding team,’ he said.
‘We got ahead in the first half and stayed there, and we got a few scores at the start of the second half too to keep that advantage there.
‘All year long we have ploughed on in every game. We have good forwards who can score, a strong midfield and six very good backs. It’s a real team effort by everyone involved and it all worked out for us on Sunday.’
He has won four West Cork JAFC titles, a county SFC with Carbery, a county JAHC medal, two West Cork JAHC titles, and a lot more as well, but top of the pile will be the day when Prendergast captained Bandon back to intermediate football.
And this adventure is not over yet – there’s a Munster series to be played, and a chance for Prendergast to write his name into the annals of Bandon GAA folklore.