BY DENIS HURLEY
BANDON will be hoping that their successful run against teams in red jerseys continues this weekend.
The Lilywhites have already seen off Charleville, Watergrasshill and Kilworth in the current premier intermediate hurling championship campaign and on Saturday in Páirc Uí Rinn (6.16pm), Mallow stand between them and a place in the final.
Four years ago, Bandon reached the decider in their first year up after winning the IHC in 2010, but found themselves overcome by a strong Ballinhassig side, and since then, they have experienced three fourth-round defeats, to Tracton, Cloyne and Valley Rovers. Selector Don McCarthy acknowledges how difficult a grade it is in which to make headway.
‘The premier intermediate is one of the toughest competitions to win in Cork,’ he says.
‘Last year against Kanturk, we didn’t get the rub of the green, we gave away a couple of soft goals and things like that. You need a small bit of luck as well from time to time, but we decided very early on this year, back in January, that we’d put in a concerted effort between hurling and football.
‘We’d train hard for the first couple of months and get fellas at a very good level of fitness and it seems to be paying off, that togetherness in the club.’
That squad includes a large contingent of survivors from 2011 and ’12, and even the IHC final losses of 2007 and ’08. That experience, coupled with an injection of youth, gives them a valuable dimension, McCarthy believes.
‘You’d have the newer and fresher lads who have come through minor and U21 but there’s probably eight or ten of them anyway, certainly, who would have been there back then,’ he says.
‘That was huge back then, it was the first year up and hopefully that bit of experience will stand to them going forward this weekend.’
Crucially, given the stage of the championship, Bandon report a clean bill of health.
‘At this moment, we’re all pretty much fully fit,’ McCarthy says.
‘One or two fellas picked up a few niggles and they’ll have rubs but everyone will be available. It’s very important to be picking from your full squad, it’s vital at this time of year to have everyone.
‘It’s all about competition at this stage, we still have no idea of our starting 15 next Saturday night. To be fair, there are lads putting up their hands in training and in league matches every night. It’s competitive, it’s great, it’s a headache that we have to live with and it’s a very healthy way to be, I think.’
The prospect of a double still remains alive for Bandon, with the club facing Cill na Martra in an IFC semi-final in the first weekend of October. It has been a common theme for both sides to perform well in tandem, with the IHC finals of 2007, ’08 and ’11 joined by Carbery JAFC titles in each of those years.
Last year, they finally made it through the junior football glass ceiling at county level, but the extra demands have inspired, rather than inhibited, them.
‘Very much so, it’s all about a winning mentality,’ McCarthy says.
‘The footballers have been on a real superb run of games since about a year and a half ago now at this stage.
‘It bodes very well for us too because over 90 per cent of our lads are dual players. Obviously, it has problems with fixtures and things like that but we have a fantastic relationship with the football selectors this year, they’ve worked absolutely brilliantly with us.
‘We’re delighted with that aspect of it and the winning continuing makes us a very happy camp!’
Mallow represent quite a challenge, though, and McCarthy says that it’s something they’re fully aware of.
‘Without a doubt, they’ll be the toughest by far,’ he says.
‘Mallow are the barometer for intermediate clubs at the moment in the county, they’re unbeaten in the league, they’re top of the table.
‘They’re the team to beat, they’re the favourites to win the county, we’re the rank outsiders of the four, you can understand that.
‘It’s a semi-final, everyone is there to be beaten at this stage and we’ll put our best
There has been some reconnaissance undertaken, but the value of that is not always guaranteed.
‘We have looked at them,’ McCarthy says, ‘and I’m sure they’ve looked at us, we’ve both had league games in the last few weeks.
‘You don’t learn a lot from league games a lot of the teams, teams would be under-strength and have fellas missing. They’re a very big, physical, strong side, they’re putting scores up for fun, so it’s going to take a huge effort by the lads to come out on the other side.’