Junior champions in 1975, the Carbery side managed to reach the IFC final in 1982 but re-graded again in 1984. Another three-year spell at intermediate from 1990-93 proved fruitless and since then they have had to toil to return, often with the added tag of being sleeping giants and the internal and external pressures that brings.
This year’s campaign saw them capable of operating in different styles and tempos when required and, on the big day, their temperament wasn’t found wanting. For Uibh Laoire, Muskerry champions for the first time in 30 years, defeat was just that: one game lost at the end of a successful run, and they should be able to channel it positively next year.
The clubs had met in the 1929 final (delayed until April 1930), when Bandon’s 1-3 to 0-0 win had given them a county junior double. The Cork Examiner had described that tie as an “exciting and strenuous contest” and the same could applied to the first half here, but the scoring rate was far more impressive.
At half-time, the scoreline read 2-8 to 1-7 in favour of Bandon as a shootout developed, with 12 scores having been registered before the game’s first wide on 21 minutes. The second period was always likelier to have been a bit more circumspect but Bandon showed an admirable adaptability to ensure that they continued to enjoy supremacy.
Defensive switches at the break led to them being tighter — Uibh Laoire would only score a point before a late 1-1 gave them hope — while the introduction of Jason Hickey at midfield alongside Donough Lucey allowed them to benefit from a partnership which began many moons ago in Crossmahon NS. In front of them, Alan Johnson set the tone for a labour-intensive effort by the half-forward line.
With the set-up so solid, it was then simply a case of getting the ball to the full-forward line of Darren Crowley, Barry Collins and Sugrue. Nobody apart from them scored for Bandon, but they didn’t need to as the trio linked almost telepathically. All added important scores when needed, Sugrue’s three goals of the utmost value.
His opening strike came in the 16th minute and it provided the first example of Bandon being able to stave off Uibh Laoire fightbacks. Points from Cathal Vaughan and Seán Lehane brought them back to 0-4 to 0-3 when Sugrue’s point effort from the left deceived keeper Jamie Cronin, who couldn’t claim possession cleanly, allowing the ball to fall into the net.
It was Crowley and Collins who did most of the scoring in the opening period, however, with Collins causing the defence all sorts of trouble. The point to make it 1-6 to 0-3 on 18 minutes was beautifully direct, as he took Lucey’s accurate pass and turned and shot, but others followed intricate interplay.
Collins set up Crowley to put seven between the sides, but then Uibh Laoire got going. Lehane netted when he fisted home from Finbarr McSweeney’s good pass after good work by Brian Cronin and Chris Óg Jones and then Cathal Vaughan (two) and Cronin added points to leave just a point in it.
After Sugrue and Lehane exchanged points, Sugrue got his second goal just before half-time. From a sideline ball in the corner, Crowley’s quick thinking set his colleague away and, though Jamie Cronin got a hand to the shot, there was just too much on it, meaning that Bandon turned with a four-point advantage.
Each side had only added a point each in the opening 10 minutes of the first half when Sugrue got his third, this time capitalising on a defensive mix-up and, when he added two more points, they were nine points clear.
They didn’t score in the final nine minutes but they didn’t need to. Vaughan, belatedly moved from midfield to attack, made things slightly nervy when he scored from Jones’s pass after Seán O’Leary’s delivery evaded the Bandon defence, with Jones then pointing from a tight angle. After that, though, Bandon were in shut-down mode and wouldn’t yield further.
There can’t have been too many GAA captains’ speeches to reference the perennial anguish of being a Liverpool fan. Bandon goalkeeper and skipper Prendergast, a lifelong Red, compared his experiences with the Lilywhites and was delighted to finally be able to enjoy the other side of the situation.
“Like Liverpool, we’d always be saying that this is our year,” he said, “finally, our year has come.”
M Sugrue 3-4 (two frees), B Collins 0-4, D Crowley 0-3.
S Vaughan (1-3 0-3f), S Lehane 1-2, B Cronin 0-3 (0-1f), C Óg Jones 0-1.
P Prendergast; E O’Donovan, K Lucey, B Crowley; J Harrington, P Murphy, J O’Donovan; D Lucey, J Walsh; P Crowley, A Johnson, D Aherne; M Sugrue, B Collins, D Crowley.
P O’Brien for Lucey (30), J Hickey for Harrington (half-time), C O’Mahony for Aherne (51), M McNamara for Sugrue (59), R Crowley for P Crowley (60), M Prendergast for Collins (60).
J Cronin; D Cotter, D O’Riordan, B Murphy; G O’Riordan, C McCarthy, K Manning; C Vaughan, S O’Leary; F McSweeney, B O’Leary, S Lehane; L Kearney, C Óg Jones, B Cronin.
S Galvin or McCarthy (44), F McSweeney Jnr for F McSweeney Snr (46), G McSweeney for Manning (52), J O’Leary for B O’Leary (59).
B Coniry (Crosshaven).