MARK Sugrue still remembers the day when Bandon’s adult football team, then junior, played O’Donovan Rossa’s second string in the Carbery Junior A Football Championship.
It was in the summer of 2010, Sugrue’s first season at adult level, in a second-round tie at Rossmore.
Sugrue, then a Cork minor footballer and playing only his second adult game for Bandon, impressed and scored 1-4, but the day didn’t end well for his side.
The Rossas ruled, won 2-12 to 2-7, knocking Bandon out.
Now, over a decade on, the club’s football teams are on a level playing field, Bandon having climbed the ladder from junior A up to the second tier of Cork club football – and the town teams square off this Saturday evening in Ballinascarthy (6pm throw-in) in their opening Group A game of the 2021 Cork Senior ‘A’ Football Championship. Dohenys and Mid Cork outfit Beál Áthan Ghaorthaidh are in the same group.
‘When we were junior and intermediate, we always looked up to these teams, like Skibbereen and Rosscarbery, all the senior teams in West Cork, thinking why can’t we be up there with them. This is a great game to get us focused at the start of the championship,’ experienced Bandon forward Sugrue told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
‘My first year with Bandon, when we were Junior A, we lost to Clon in the first round and our back-door game was against O’Donovan Rossa and we lost that as well. So my first taste of adult football with Bandon were too losses, and one was to O’Donovan Rossa.
‘This game on Saturday is a big step up on where we have come from. We still have Pat Prendergast, Darren Crowley, Peter Murphy, Cian O’Mahony all involved from back then.’
Speaking to The Southern Star in May after the group draw was made, Bandon boss Colm Aherne said: ‘It’s a big thing for Bandon footballers to be playing against Skibb seniors. It’s not that long ago that these guys were facing Skibb’s second team when we were down junior.’
There were a few familiar faces on the Skibb junior team in 2010, too, who are now with their club’s senior side. Ryan Price, Shane Crowley and David Shannon all featured in that Carbery JAFC win against Bandon. This is a game Bandon have been looking forward to, but Sugrue knows the challenge his side faces on Saturday.
‘The minute the draw was made, you’d have put Skibb down as the best team in our group. Trying to get a result against them will be tough, but training has been going well for the last few weeks,’ he said.
‘It’s hard to pinpoint any weakness in the Skibbereen team. In the odd team you can say we’ll target them or we can target this area, but from what I have seen of Skibb in recent years there are no weak spots.
‘They have the experience of being in the top grade for so long while we are still the new boys, coming up from junior to intermediate to premier intermediate. It is still a bit new to us. Some of these teams, like Dohenys too, are seasoned campaigners so we’ve a lot of tough work ahead of.’
Bandon are also missing some of their more experienced players for the campaign ahead, notably club stalwart James O’Donovan who is making headlines in road bowling in recent weeks.
‘James is a huge loss to us. Since I’ve been there he’s been our leader, calling everything from the back. Eoghan O’Donovan is living in Kerry now and he’s another huge loss. Ronan Crowley has gone travelling for the year as well so we’re down a few senior players,’ Sugrue explained.
‘In fairness, some of the newer fellas who have come in are training hard and are willing to make the first 15, a fella like Tim Twohig who is not long out of secondary school and he is really putting his shoulder to the wheel. Dylan O’Donovan, people saw a taste of him last year, and he’s another great player so hopefully we can blend our new team.’
Another notable addition this season is the return of Colm Aherne to the Bandon football hot seat. He’s enjoyed huge success in this role before, masterminding their rise from the junior ranks and overseeing county successes.
‘It’s great to have him back. It’s the organisation he has, everything is laid out. He steps standards up for football and hurling, realistically. When he is so well organised with the football, the hurling has to be the exact same. He has great ideas,’ Sugrue said ahead of a busy period for this dual club who are in Cork SAHC action the following Saturday against Kanturk. It’s not easy juggling both codes in such a condensed period, and Sugrue knows a good start is key. Last year Bandon beat Clyda in their SAFC opener and that was the result that eventually helped them qualify for the knock-out stages. A win on Saturday against Skibb would be a huge boost, too, not to mention a scalp Bandon would enjoy.