FRENCH coach Régis Sonnes will soon depart Bandon to take up a post with Toulouse, the club he played for in the 1990s.
He leaves having more than made his mark, however – in a dual role with Bandon Grammar School and the local club, two seasons have yielded a Munster Schools Senior Cup semi-final appearance and Munster Junior Cup victory in 2017 and now the Munster Junior League Division 1 title.
Before he returns to France, there is the chance of more success as Bandon do battle with the other three provincial winners for a place in the All-Ireland league. He is happy at a job well done, though keen not to hog the credit.
‘It’s not over yet because we’re now facing into an All-Ireland league challenge,’ he said.
‘We have three games more but it has been a great season both for the club and the school, and I am proud of everyone involved in what they have done so far.
‘My job here does not finish until June and there is still work to be done. For now, we have to be happy with our position and these last two years have been memorable, but I have to say that the base of this was laid a few years ago before my time when Bandon won the All-Ireland U18 cup, so we have very good young players who have now come in to the first team.
‘We will do our best, but winning the league was the main focus. After winning the junior cup, it’s perfect. It will be a good experience for them, and we will see. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the guys after such a great season.’
With a defeat against Skibbereen in October their only league setback, Bandon claimed the title with some excellent displays of rugby, finishing with four straight bonus-point wins. Sonnes was pleased that his hopes for positive, expansive rugby were realised.
‘Last year, my first words to the team were that we want to win by playing,’ Sonnes said.
‘For the last four games, we had to win with bonus points, so that means you have to play and play well. I know in Ireland that the kick is very important but we have to learn; we had to learn that the kick was important but not always the way.
‘Winning the junior cup last year gave us a strong spirit and that really helped us this year. This year, we keep the same spirit, we adapt and we had to work hard.
‘It was a big step but winning the league was more difficult, you need to show more consistency all season.
‘They were a bit nervous at the start, but after ten minutes they showed good intensity.
‘We were lucky to score a lot in the first half because, with the wind and the pitch and the weather bad, but we had done enough.
‘This last game, we had to win with a bonus point and we could not have done that by playing with just one type of game.’