Ahead of the Cork senior hurling clash between Bandon and Newcestown in Clonakilty this Saturday evening, DENIS HURLEY got the thoughts of both camps – Pat Prendergast for Bandon and Eoin Kelly for Newcestown
ON Monday, August 13th, the Cork County Board held the draws for the remainder of the senior and premier intermediate hurling and football championships.
From a West Cork point of view, the pairing of Bandon and Newcestown in the SHC round 3 was the plum tie, the first meeting of the clubs’ first teams in the championship since the 1991 Carbery JAHC final.
When the name of Eoin Twomey, a friend from Newcestown, popped up on the phone of Bandon goalkeeper Pat Prendergast later that night, he was primed.
‘The night the draw came out, he rang me and I thought it was to have a bit of craic so I went on the offensive straightaway,’ he says.
‘He hadn’t heard it – he was only ringing for a chat!’
After that 1991 divisional win, Newcestown retained their title with victory over Barryroe in 1992 before claiming the county title.
It took Bandon seven more years to escape the junior bearpit, with Prendergast in goal in his first year on team.
‘We played their second team in a West Cork semi-final that year,’ remembers, ‘they were intermediate at the time, and it was packed.
‘For both clubs to be playing senior hurling at the same time is a great achievement, it’s great for West Cork hurling.
‘When both are new enough to the senior grade, it’s about maintaining status. Now that both are through, it’s about emulating what you did last year and getting back to a quarter-final.
‘The game takes on a bigger aspect then.’
The clubs avoided each other in the intermediate championship from 2000-04, before a split in that grade saw Newcestown afforded premier status. Bandon’s 2011 IHC win brought them to the same level again before Newcestown won that title in 2015, followed by the Lilywhites a year later.
While there is little to go on in terms of adult on-field rivalry, there have been underage tussles aplenty, as Newcestown’s Eoin Kelly recalls.
‘When I was full minor, in 2008, we played them in Enniskeane, there was a mass brawl!’ he laughs.
‘There was a bit of a skirmish and the crowd came on to the pitch and everything. I got a straight red that night, I think there were three or four given out.’
For the past six years, Kelly has been teaching in Scoil Phádraig Naofa in Bandon, lending a hand to Sciath na Scol teams, though he insists he’s not a rogue agent teaching bad habits (‘Bandon minors beat Newcestown last week, and I was thinking that a lot of the lads I would have taught were playing,’ he says).
His own secondary school days were spent at St Brogan’s College, winning an O’Callaghan Cup in 2007 alongside Bandonians like Roy Payne, Jason McCarthy and Ronan Crowley, beating a Glanmire CC team which featured players who would go on to win county senior titles with Sarsfields.
At club level, hampered by smaller numbers, Newcestown would always strive to compete with Bandon at the lower age-grades.
‘They’d always be stronger than you until around minor or U21 and then you’d put it up to them,’ Kelly says.
‘We beat them a good bit at U21 when we caught up with them, but they would have had it over us at underage up until then, they’d be stronger on the wings.’
Prendergast remembers something similar from his underage days in the 1990s, albeit from the other side of the fence.
‘We’d have played them U14, U16 and minor, nearly always West Cork semi-finals or finals.
‘They were always close games, we’d have probably had the upper hand by a point or two as we had a very strong team.
‘I think they beat us at U21 level then.
‘Then we played together on the school team, we won a Munster colleges title in 1999, where a lot of the team was made up of lads from Bandon and Newcestown.’
That was with Hamilton High School, winning the Munster Colleges Senior C hurling title.
‘When you’re in school, they’re your buddies and your friends and you’d do anything to win with them,’ Prendergast says.
‘In ’99, we won a Munster with the school and a couple of months later I was playing against Conor O’Donovan, both trying to reach a West Cork final, that’s the joy of local derbies.’
In 2017, Bandon’s first year back up senior, the clubs were in different sections as the senior league experimented with a change in format. However, the current campaign began with a derby game in Newcestown, Bandon taking victory thanks to a late Mattie McNamara goal. While it was the end of February, just a week before the heavy snowfall, it still drew considerable interest.
‘It was windy, cold and they got a late goal to win it!’ Kelly says.
‘It was a big enough crowd for the day it was, but we had very little done and they had probably very little done.’
This time round, football commitments have served to hamper Newcestown’s preparations, though they did play Glen Rovers in a challenge game in Clonakilty.
‘It means that we’ve probably only played one hurling game in the last six weeks,’ Kelly says.
‘We were building up to football before the Clon game, and then then when you have extra time you need a down week.
‘You’d prefer to have a game or two to build up to championship but we’ve nearly all of our league games played.’
Bandon too have finished their league programme, a defeat to Ballymartle last weekend resulting in their relegation.
A championship quarter-final place against Imokilly or Bishopstown still beckons of course, and focusing on that is important, Prendergast feels.
‘At the end of the day, it’s a round 3 game with a big prize, to play the county champions or Bishopstown in the next round,’ he says.
‘It’s a big thing for people around the town and around Newcestown, the bit of banter and slagging and all of that going on. For the players, it’s just another game and that’s the way it has to be.’
Kelly admits that separating the task at hand and not the occasion isn’t easy.
‘Some fellas find it very hard!’
‘You try to keep it as a third round with the prize of a quarter-final, but you don’t want to lose either, there are bragging rights!
‘You’re trying to stop fellas thinking about Bandon too much and focus on themselves but it’s a lot easier said than done.’
Nevertheless, while he and the rest of the players can’t enjoy it, it will be a special day.
‘You’d never have thought it three or four years ago, that you’d have two senior teams and two Cork seniors involved in Luke [Meade] and Mike [Cahalane].
‘When you see them doing well, it drives you on and I’d say it’s the same for them. Both of us pulling our stuff together and winning the two first rounds, they’d drag you on a bit alright.’