Niall O’Halloran shares his thoughts on Bandon’s PIHC campaign with NOEL HORGAN
HAVING guided Bandon to county PIHC glory in his first season at the helm, Niall O’Halloran couldn’t speak highly enough of the players as he reflected on their tremendous achievement against the odds.
‘From my point of view when I came in to coach the team this year, I thought the lads were very attentive, and I could see they had no problem in taking on new ideas,’ he said.
‘Our objective as a management was to make Bandon competitive again, and we definitely felt if we could put a bit of structure in place so that the lads knew what they were doing once they got out on the pitch we’d be capable of beating any team with the talent we had.
‘It was basically a case of getting them to believe they could do it on their own, and not to be looking for guidance from the sideline all the time.’
Although Bandon had been disappointing in recent seasons, O’Halloran said he was satisfied there was no shortage of confidence among the players at the start of the campaign.
‘I can’t comment on on why things didn’t work out in the last few years, because I wasn’t there, but I was very anxious to become involved this year,’ remarked the Ballinhassig native.
‘I felt there was a new confidence there after winning a county junior football title last year.
‘It made the lads realise what can be achieved when guys make sacrifices and everybody puts a shoulder to the wheel.
‘That was certainly a big help, and I think the success they enjoyed in football last year gave them the hunger for more,’ he suggested.
The opening game against Charleville was always likely to be very revealing in terms of Bandon’s title aspirations, according to O’Halloran, who pointed out they were given little or no chance by most pundits going into the game.
‘We were massive underdogs, and we didn’t perform well in the first half, but we addressed a few issues once we got the players in at half time, and, to be honest, I thought there was only one team in it in the second half and in extra time. We performed with huge aggression and determination, which, along with our hurling ability, got us over the line, and we were very encouraged by that display.
‘I wasn’t so pleased after winning our next game against Watergrasshill, and I remember saying at the time that our performance on that occasion wouldn’t be good enough to win any more championship matches.
‘We all knew we needed to improve, the management, the coaches and the players, but we felt we had considerable momentum with us at the same time, because the footballers were winning as well, and confidence was growing.’
O’Halloran said another major plus going forward was the return of Michael Cahalane to the squad following a three-year lay-off on medical grounds.
‘Michael came on as a sub in the next game against Kilworth, which meant we had an extra option in attack, and, more importantly, it gave everybody a huge lift,’ O’Halloran said.
‘It was another tough game against Kilworth, and I suppose people still weren’t paying much attention to us when we faced up to Mallow in the semi-final, which was fine as far as we were concerned.
‘Mallow had been scoring a lot of goals, they had been dominating teams physically as well, but we didn’t mind going in under the radar and weren’t in the least bit apprehensive about taking them on.
‘I thought we played very well, we were six points up at half time, and while we needed a great goal in the last five minutes to win, I thought we fully deserved our victory overall.’
Heading into the final against Fermoy, O’Halloran said he was amazed how relaxed the players were, and that he was convinced they’d deliver a big performance.
‘The lads were completely focused, they didn’t feel any pressure, and I thought they really enjoyed themselves on the day,’ he said.
‘They played without any inhibitions, confident in the knowledge they had done a lot of good things during the year, and that it was just a case of going out to win another championship match.
‘Looking back on the year, we were fortunate we had no serious issue regarding injuries, and I think that came down to the players having enough time to rest between games.
‘We worked very well with the football management to make that happen, and we knew from the start if we were able to get our best team out on the pitch for every game, we’d be very hard to beat.’