A HISTORY OF BANDON RUGBY CLUB
by John P. Merwick.
Rugby football was first played in Ireland in Trinity College. Dublin, in 1854. The game was introduced to the South Munster region by Trinity graduates who were employed as teachers in Cork, Midleton and Bandon. Rugby football was a popular sport amongst the students of Queens College. Cork. and in 1872 a book of Rules was printed. It’s purpose was to streamline the various interpretations of the laws that, no doubt, existed not only in the College but also amongst the clubs that were quickly emerging in the Cork area. Montenotte, Waterloo, Queenstown, Cork Bankers and Bandon were formed in the mid 1870’s. The Cork County Club, a condensation of the earlier city ciubs, emerged later in the decade. They played their games in Cork Park, where the Ford car factory is now situated.
Little is known of the formation of the Bandon Club. or of the earlier games they played, as records were not kept, other than infrequent newspaper accounts in the Cork Constitution and Cork Examiner. However. Frank Levis, who etched his name forever in the annals of Munster rugby. when he got the only score, a try, in the first Munster Senior Cup Final in 1886. appears to have been the driving force behind the Bandon club throughout this period. Frank Levis. a Solicitor. resided in Watergate Street and acted as club secretary and team captain for a number of seasons. Initially he played with the forwards but soon he made the out half position his own and he figured prominantly in all match reports.
Queens in Bandon.
By 1880 Bandon had established regular fixtures with Cork County, Cork Bankers and Queens College. The South West Cork railway link with Cork doubtlessly played an important role in Bandon’s development as a commercial industrial and sporting town as travel was appreciatively easier; the alternative was a tiresome journey by horse and coach.
The students of Queens College chose the latter mode of transport on their first ever ‘tour’ away from home on St. Stephen’s Day I880. Frank Levis invited them to Bandon to play a match and to mark this historical event a fancy-dress ball was organised in the hotel. The game itself was a lighthearted and enjoyable affair with spectators joining in the muddy fray. College won the day and all retired to a night of revelry and fun at the fancy-dress party. Next day, the college annals record, the students returned by road still garbed in fancy-dress costume and they stopped at every hostelry where they sang and praised their hosts, Bandon Football Club.
Rugby football was the only form of organised football played at this time in the area. Association football is first mentioned in the sport reports 10 years later in 1893 while Gaelic Football came into being following the foundation of the G.A.A. in 1884 in Thurles. Therefore, all references to ‘Football’ in the press and other literature at this time is clearly indicating ‘Rugby football’.
By 1882 the Rugby club had firmly established itself as an important facet of the social life in Bandon. Heretofore games were arranged and fixtures decided upon on a loose basis which was a satisfactory arrangement when there was just a handful of clubs participating. Now, however, the number of clubs had increased substantially. Rushbrook Bulldogs, Mr. Brownes XV, Cork Grammar School, Mr. Crabbs XV and bizarre names such as Bicyclists and Non Bicyclists were fielding regular teams. Bandon Grammar School defeated St. Edmunds College in Bandon on November 23rd, 1882 by four goals and several points to nil.
The need for an administrative body to oversee the game was now very apparent and so the clubs sought affiliation to the I.R.F.U . that season. Bob Fitzgerald, Secretary of the I.R.F.U. when recently informing club P.R.O. Peadar O’Mahony that Bandon paid an affiliation fee of £2 which covered the seasons 1882-83 and 1883-84, also wryly commented that even in these times of soaring inflation the fee has not changed from £ I in the 100 years since.
It is on this basis that Bandon celebrates the centenary of its foundation in 1982. In 1882 Bandon fielded two teams and the season opened with a Seconds XV match against Cork Juvenile Club on Monday October 9th. 1882 in Bandon resulting in a win for the home team by a goal and two tries.
Bandon: Full back: E. Pope, Half Backs: R. Frend, W. Lee. Quarter Backs: H. Sullivan, J. McKay. Forwards: G. Hegarty, R. Allshire. G. Brooks, H. Houston, W. Beare, Bartle), O’Neill, W. Smith, R. Wolfe and Harley.
It is obvious from this line-up that playing positions differed from to-day’s format, the emphasis then being very much on prolonged forward rushes and tight play, thus the greater number of forwards. Edwin Pope. a timber merchant, North Main St. was the regular full back and was tactical adviser to the side. He is one of the Bandon players of this period believed to have played with Munster. Willie Lee was one-time proprietor of the Munster Arms Hotel and is well remembered as an amateur dramatist. The Sullivan mentioned resided in the “Retreat”, Laurel Walk and is the father of the present Anne, Duchess of Westminister.
Later that month Bandon’s senior team hosted and defeated Cork Bankers while Murphys XV defeated the Second XV on Friday, November 3rd, 1882. The highlight of the season was Bandon’s win over Queens College by a try and a disputed try to a disputed try. Bandon: E. Pope, L. Sullivan, Bartley, Daly, H. Sullivan, Smith. Swan. Swanton, Levis, Good, Brooks, Harley, Cleary, Brennan and Kennedy.
Jacko Daly, barber and grand-uncle of Jimmy Daly. Oliver Plunkett Street, played for nearly twenty years with the club and. after it’s revival in the twenties, was a great supporter. Joseph Brennan, Brennans Mills etc., was educated in Dublin by the Jesuits where he learned his rugby and figures prominently in the club’s later successes.
Bandon were represented at the Munster selection meeting in Limerick by Messrs. Bolster and McDaniel. Selectors from five clubs were present – Cork County, Limerick, Cork Bankers. Queens College and Bandon. Although Bandon failed to get any player on the team Bolster is listed amongst the substitutes for the game against Leinster. This vouches more for his persuasive debating powers than his sporting ability as he faded to command a permanent place on Bandon’s second team.
The difficulties attached to travel was not the only hindrance encountered by the intrepid sportsmen of the time. The agitation for land reform was at its peak – the Home Rule question was being vigorously debated – the Phoenix Park assasinations brought home to all Irishmen the intensity of feeling that later manifested itself in the 1916 rising. Nationalistic aspirations ran high at the time and overflowed on to the sporting spectrum. In 1884 the Gaelic Athletic Association was formed in Thurles, one of its aims being to foster an appreciation of Gaelic traditions by reviving hurling and instituting the Gaelic Rules of football. Fortunately, in Bandon both codes retained an amiable rapport that in time enhanced both clubs.
It had often been assumed that the British Army Garrison in Bandon was instrumental in forming the club and contributed to the success of the club in the 1886 Senior Cup victory. This is totally unfounded as no British Army member had played with Bandon nor had any acted in an administrative capacity.
THE MUNSTER SENIOR CHALLENGE CUP
The keen rivalry that was brewing between Munster clubs was finally allowed to manifest itself in Competition when L. Forbes Maguire and W. L. Stokes initiated the Munster Senior Challenge Cup. The “Limerick Chronicle” of January I 12th 1886 describes the event.
“Messrs. L. Forbes Maguire of Cork and W. L. Stokes of this city, two well-known and enthusiastic players, determined that, before retiring finally from active connection with the game, they would establish this cup, the want of which had so long been felt by the rugby clubs of Munster, and their efforts have been crowned with success.
The various clubs and individuals to whom these gentlemen applied for subscriptions responded most heartily and liberally, and the result was that in less than three months after the start of the project, a cup was provided worth £65. The cup, which was made specially to order, besides being a valuable piece, is a beautiful exhibition of the silversmiths art and skill. It was procured through Messrs. Breton from the well-known house of Messrs. Martin Hall and Co., of Sheffield, is sterling silver throughout, weighing 88 ounces and standing 21 inches in height. In the centre, on one side, is a faithfully chased representation of a football match in course of progress, and, on the other, are engraved the Munster Arms with the name of the cup and date.
Eight clubs took part in the championship in its inaugural year 1886. Garryowen defeated Ormond and Limerick County, who had accounted for Queens College, on their way to the final. Clanwilliam ousted Tralee in their first round game and Bandon defeated Cork County in the first tie and played a draw in Cork against Clanwilliam in the second round. Bandon travelled to the Garryowen grounds for the replay. This game was a tough-fought encounter.” Severe scrimmaging took place and slowly the ball was worked up to the Clanwilliam twenty-five where Manning and Carroll made some hand dashes but their efforts proved unavailing owing to the good collaring of Morrissey (Clanwilliam).” Bandon eventually won the tussle and met Garryowen in the final on Tuesday 13th April in Cork Park, where Fords and Dunlops are now situated.
The report on the game is worth including in this publication as it brings home to the reader how little the atmosphere of a rugby final has changed in a century.
Extract from the Cork Examiner
April 7th, 1886,
Bandon. v Garryowen.
Yesterday in the presence of a large crowd of spectators and on a heavy ground, the final tie for the Munster Football Championship Cup was played between the above clubs at the Park. A strong N. West wind prevailed throughout the game and great difficulty though the attendance was very great, no one except the stewards came inside the rope. The weather, which at first appeared threatening, settled down fine and the ground was in good condition.
At 3 o’clock sharp Sullivan (G), kicked off and the ball was immediately sent back by CaInan (B). Sullivan again gaining possession made a short run, being collared by Levis (B). After some scrimmaging Good (B) rushed the ball until it went into touch not far from the Garryowen lines. Play was for some time confined between the half-way and the Limerick ’25’ when some hard scrimmaging took place. The Garryowen forwards now rushed the ball beyond the Bandon ’25’ but relief was brought by Brennan (B) who carried the ball into neutral ground. A long punt by Sullivan (G), which was replied to by Calnan, again left the play at the Limerick ’25’. A free kick was claimed by Garryowen on account of off-side play by Bandon which brought the play into neutral ground. A clever piece of passing here took play into Bandon territory where scrimmaging ensued. Garryowen claimed a ‘free’ which was well followed up by the forwards who confined the play close to the Bandon lines until relief was brought by Levis by some good passing. The advantage was, however, neutralised by Sullivan (G) who carried the ball again within the Bandon ’25’. Bandon here got a ‘free’ which was kicked by Manning. sending the ball into touch half ways. Manning soon after got possession but his run was checked by Pierce (G) and the ball was scrimmaged half-way. The Bandon forwards now pressed forward very fiercely and brought the play close to the Limerick lines, Good and Levis doing some good work. After some severe scrimmaging Levis, amidst much excitement, got in and gained a try which, however. he failed to convert into a goal. Sullivan (G) kicked off, Reeves and Beaumont following up brought the ball to the Bandon ’25’. Reeves shortly after made a splendid run which nearly resulted in a try but, when within a few yards of the Bandon lines he was stopped by Hawkes. At half time Levis (B) kicked off with a short kick, the Bandon forwards following up vigourously.
Calnan took the ball up to the Limerick lines. but Sullivan got possession, and by a plucky run took it as far as the Bandon ’25’ thereby relieving his side. A bad ball passed by Garryowen quarter enabled Manning to rush the ball very near the Garryowen lines where scrimmaging ensued. and Bandon all but got in, but the referee brought the ball to the fiveyards, where more scrimmaging took place. The leather was eventually forced back to the Garryowen ’25’ and soon after to half way. The Limerick men here played up with great vigour and resulted in Bandon touching down for the first time in self-defence. Sullivan (G) gained a free, which resulted in Bandon again touching down in defence. Both sides now pressed very hard and Pierce made a few ineffectual rushes. Some scrimmaging took place at the Bandon ’25’ until Good brought the ball again into Limerick territory. Levis obtained a free kick and punted the ball into touch near the centre. Some more scrimmaging ensued in neutral ground, and shortly after time was called, the match resulted in a well earned victory for Bandon by one try to nil. Both teams throughout played an excellent game.
The Bandon team were: – Full back, Hawkes, Halves, Heuston. Calnan, Manning, Quarters: Levis, Brennan, forwards: Brennan, Cunningham. O’Regan, Bartley, McSweeney, Richardson, Ollive, Good, Calnan.
The Garryowen team were: – Full back, Sullivan, halves: Quinare, McCarthy and Pierce. Quarters: Reeves and Tarpey, Forwards: Beaumont, Westropp, Martin, Heartney, DeCourcey, Prendergast, Coleman, McAuley, Ewart.
Of the Bandon backs Levis, as usual, played an excellent game; Clanan, Manning and Hawkes also showed good play. Of forwards Brennan, Good and CaInan played very well. For Garryowen, Sullivan, Pierce and Reeves did good work. Amongst the forwards, Beaumont, Coleman, Westrop and Ewart played a good game.
There were five R.I.C. members on the team – J. Bartley, T. Cunningham, M. Brennan, P. Richardson and W. Manning. Good was a doctor in Bandon; R. Hewston a distillery clerk; R. Cleary a Bank clerk-, F. Hawkes a shop-keeper; J. Swiney a merchant; J. O’Regan was a harness maker. Mr. Unkles managed the Manor Mills.
J. J. CaInan was a great grandfather of the Calnan family proprietors of Crowley CaInans Drapery shop in South Main St. and Con Ollive was employed in the West Cork Bottling Company. He was known as Tug Boat Ollive and his feats of strength are legendary. Following this famous victory there was great celebration and some of the them did not arrive home for a week. There is a story. difficult to authenticate, that one of the team was so overcome by the lavish praise bestowed on the team, and possibly also due to the level of inebriation he had reached, that he absconded and was never again seen in Bandon.
“Mossy Landers was a most distinguished player in his day and an Irish International” remembers Cecil O’Driscoll formerly of St. Patricks Quay and now manager, Bank of Ireland, Kilkenny. “In his latter days, he became a fascinating rugby Correspondent for the Cork Examiner and on a train journey to Dublin around that time, he told me that as a child he was down at the Bandon Railway Station with a huge crowd of people to meet the train bringing home the victorious team with the Cup in 1886. Much too small to see what was going on; to see the train steaming in, which was always a thrill anyway, and the players emerging with the Cup, a man called Fulham, a blacksmith I think, took him up and held him over his head and the sight was still fresh in his memory as he told me about it. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the occasion sparked off his ambition to excel as a Rugby Player, as he certainly did.”
The following year Bandon, by way of preparation for the Senior Cup campaign, played Cork F.C. and won by a goal and a try. The match report the next day in the “Constitution” carried the following postscript: – “At the termination of the game a disgraceful scene ensued when the Cork rowdies showed their unmanly disposition “There are one or two members of the R.I.C. in Bandon’s team, and right good men too” who “roused the ire of some of the fellows who have reason to dislike the police” Cork Con stitution March 2nd 1887.
Bandon: Pope, CaInan, Sheehan and Houston, Levis (C), Daly, Brennan, Richardson, Lawless, Bartley, Cunningham, Ollive, Good, Canniffe, Tanner.
On March 10th 1887 Bandon met College in their cup tic. College won e3qil%! despite the disputed try incident mentioned earlier.
Bandon. E. Pope, J. Calnan, P. Lawless, Waugh, F. Levis, J. Daly, R. Swanton (Capt.) , W. Brennan, J. Richardson, Bartley, O’Regan, Ollive, N. O’Tolle, J. Crowley. College went on to win the cup that year.
On Thursday 23rd March 1888 Bandon were defeated by Cork F. C. Bandon lined out as follows: – Full back Wauth, Halves: G. Levis, W. Sullivan, B. Scott; Quarters: J. Daly, J. G. Levis, Forwards: O’Regan, Ollive, Blanchfield, Tanner, Crowley, Hickey, Long, Downey. When Cork F.C. lined out against Queens in their cup tie, their side included Bandonians G. Levis, J. G. Levis, Auliffe and O’Regan.
In 1890 Bandon were unlucky to draw Garryowen in the first round of the senior cup as they were the reigning champions having won the cup the previous year for the first time. There was considerable interest generated by the game as it was the first meeting of sides since the ’86 final and it drew a large attendance to the Limerick grounds. Garryowen trounced their visitors by three goals five tries to nil. This heralded the emergence of one of the most successful Munster Cup sides who went on to win eight successive Munster Cup titles.
Bandon continued in Senior Cup competition until 1893 when they were defeated by Queens College.
Bandon F.B. Sherlock, Brien, Belcher, Pim, Daly, Levis, Tanner, Donovan, Waugh, Wheeler, Johnston, Jones, Sargent Hosford and Good.
Bob Sherlock was a crown solicitor- Hosford was manager of Allmans distillery, Waugh, was Davey Waugh’s, grandfather, Fox’s Street, and Belsher was a dispensary doctor. His habit of drinking an anti-digestion mixture proved fatal some years later when he swallowed sulphuric acid having mistook it for his usual mixture. The Blanchfields mentioned was a member of the family who were proprietors of the Munster Arms Hotel at one time. William Beare was Bobby’s (Connolly Street), grandfather.
This signalled the demise of the great Bandon side that had captured the first Munster Senior Cup. Bandon opted out of the Senior challenge cup and now played friendlies as no other competition was organised for adult teams. There was, however, an under 21 competition which began in 1887. The first game between Ballintemple F.C. and Green Rovers F.C. (Kinsale) was played in Bandon and referred by R. Brennan, Bandon
The FOOTBALL TEAM OF BANDON
- Let poets sing
- And praises fling,
- The fair, the brave, or grand on,
- While fame renowns
- And honour crowns
- The football team of Bandon.
- The matchless men of Bandon,
- The football team of Bandon,
- That won the day
- And bore away
- The Munster Cup to Bandon.
- Clanwilliam bore
- The sway before
- We met fair Limerick’s land on;
- But vain their might,
- In football fight,
- Against the boys of Bandon.
- The matchless men etc.
- Then Garryowen
- To Cork came down,
- But heard the Bells of Shandon
- That evening play
- The victor’s lay,
- To greet the boys of Bandon.
- The matchless men etc.
- And cheer on cheer
- Rings loud and clear,
- And ladies smile most bland on
- Each gallant swain,
- As from the train
- Appear the boys of Bandon.
- The matchless men of Bandon,
- The Football team of Bandon,
- That won the day
- And bore away
- The Munster Cup to Bandon.
With compliments, best wishes Cecil O’Driscoll, a song saluting the 1886 Senior Cup Winners uncovered by Cecil O’Driscoll.
West Cork Clubs emerge.
The early success of Bandon doubtlessly encouraged the formation of other West Cork teams, Kinsale, Clonakilty (v Bandon Grammar School 1888) and Skibbereen (v St. Faughnan’s College Rosscarbery, March 3rd, 1891). There is one intriguing report gleamed from the Cork Constitution, December 28th. 1887. This game was played on St. Stephen’s Day 1887 between Shamrock F.C. (Bandon) and Nil Desperandurms Cork. The game was played under rugby rules. An excerpt informs us “the running was remarkably good and the collaring splendid”. Daly, Blanchfield, Downing, Healy and Nolan played well for Bandon. ‘Nils’ of course were the famous Gaelic Football team and when Bandon G.A. A. club was formed, they adopted the name ‘Shamrocks’. Could it be that the rugby club was their forerunner?
There is another earlier reference to Skibbereen playing St. Edmunds F.B.C. in Dunmanway in December 1882 but this appears to be a once off affair as no records of Skibbereen appear again until 1891.
Unfortunately, all club records relating to the period are lost and as the newspapers carried reports only of the major games we must rely on hearsay for accounts of rugby games from l 894 to the mid 1920’s.
Bandon continued to play rugby during this time but on a local, non-competitive basis probably playing against the local Grammar School, Clonakilty and Skibbereen.
The first World War, the struggle for independence and the “Troubles” put a damper on all sporting activities for a decade. By the mid twenties the attention of the youth of the country was diverted to more peaceful pursuits and a great upsurge took place in all sports.
Jim Neville, Solicitor, set about re-organising the Rugby Club and he was helped by a number of bank officials. Harry Pope. a Banker and brother of the Garage Proprietor, Victoria Cross, Cork, is credited with arranging the first game. He attended the fixture meeting in Cork with Ned Cahill, a Rate Collector and honorary secretary of the club, who also provided the transport for the trip; a motorcycle.
Harry Pope recalls, “In our first game in 1925 there were two Harry Popes playing, myself at scrum half and Harry Pope, the timber merchant, North Main Street, played in the out half position. Kinsale was a devil of a pitch as it was situated on a height near the station and when the ball was kicked over the boundary fence it took ages to retrieve. Following the game in Kinsale we all gathered in Murphy’s Hotel and between the lot of us we had very little money. However, we had tea and when we had finished Jerry Kelleher, a creamery manager, stood and made a speech thanking Kinsale for their hospitality in providing the meal. Kinsale had no choice but to pay.
On the return journey from Kinsale some of the lads travelling in the back of the lorry threw out their togs when passing through Innishannon forcing the driver to stop and they dashed straight into the pub and it was impossible to get them home.” “An incident I’ll always remember happened in the Mardyke. Sean Brennan broke his collar bone and as he held his shoulder all he could say was, “Dammit, why didn’t I buy the Daily Mail this morning*’. You see when you bought the Daily Mail you signed a form in O’Farrells and you had insurance cover for the day. I bought it daily from then on and later I too broke my collar bone and I received £10 for my claim”.
The team was composed of no fewer than five sets of brothers, J. J. and Phelan, John Mel and Ted Poland, Harry and George Seaman, Denis, Jim and Ted Nagle, Billy and Denis O’Neill.
“Both Ted Poland and I began our rugby playing days in the bogs. The club were sub-tenants of the G.A.A. club at first” recalls Tim Quill, Waterwe Street. “This arrangement didn’t last very long and Ned Walsh, who played himself for a time, came to our rescue when he offered us the use of his field adjoining the Macroom road. The pitch in those days ran in a north-south direction”. This Bandon side began playing competitive rugby in the 1926-27 season.
The County Cup was presented by the city Rugby Clubs in 1927 and it was confined to teams of junior status as no other competition existed for county teams. Bandon were unlucky to be drawn against Macroom in the first round as they had a heavier and more experienced side while Bandon were still at the teething stages of competitive rugby.
Their performance that day, however, belied their inexperience, for Macroom were fortunate to advance by a single try (3 pts) to nil. The Cork Examiner reporter praised “Hunt and Ryall in the forward line (who) were always prominent; among the backs the kicking and tackling of O’Neill were repeatedly applauded while the speedy D. J. O’Callaghan gave the Macrompians some anxious moments” Cork Examiner, March 22nd, 1927.
J. J. Hunt was a bank official and captained the Bandon team for the 1929-30 season. The O’Neill referred to was, of course, Billy O’Neill, Shop-keeper from Convent Hill, who contributed greatly to Bandon’s later successes. He was equally talented as a full back or centre. Such was the regard in which he was held by rugby enthusiasts throughout the county that the newspaper reporter commenting on a Munster Trial game between Cork and Waterford in 1929, attributed Cork’s defeat to the absence of O’Neill in the threequarters.
The our-half, J. J. O’Callaghan, who also played with U.C.C. made the position his own throughout the period and, indeed, he was the first choice fly-half in the county trials that came into being later. Ted Poland recalls, “Callaghan had more football brains than any other around. He’d always find out who his opponent was, what his christian name was, had they a nickname on him and so on. During the game he’d be all the time saying “slip it to me, Mick” etc. In a game against Macroom he intercepted a pass on our goal line. Gerald Barry was the referee, who was against us too and if he had the whistle in his mouth he’d have blown it, but he was mesmerised when he saw Callaghan getting away from every one and he scored under the post to best Macroom even though they had the hell beaten out of us the same day. Mallow and Macroom met in the final and Mallow won by seven points to nil.
The following year Bandon met Macroom in the competition on March, 26th -in Bandon. The ‘Cork Examiner’ reporter describes the game. “The pitch was in a very heavy state and held several pools of water, and the leather being greasy, was difficult to handle. The visitors pack a stone each made good use of this advantage, the conditions favouring them. Following a dribbling movement, Love scored. On resuming. pla,, remained in mid field. The Bandon scrum-half Poland (Ted), was playing a splendid game, his tactics counteracting the weighty Macroom forwards and though he his back with plenty of ball they made little headway and kicked badly. On the other hand Macroom depended on the loose rush- and high punt”. Macroom kept pressing Bandon and launched a high kick at (Paddy.) Murphy, the home full, but he “marked” on the line. Following his kick to touch. Kerins (M) received from the throw and sprang over to give Macroom a six point win.
This was the nearest this Bandon side had come to winning a trophy and, this narrow defeat, although disappointing, had a very desirable affect on the club for it provoked a resolve and determination that was to be *instrumental in establishing Bandon as one of the top county teams between the Wars.
MINOR CUP 1928
Bandon had entered the Minor Cup that year and defeated Sundays Well and Dolphin in the semi-final. Bandon, in fact, were the first county team to enter in the competition.
U.C.C. were their adversary in the final which was played in the Mardyke and for this momentous occasion the club hired a number of cars from Seamans. The front of the cars were garnished with crossed blue and white flags and the supporters sported colourful. home-made rosettes. The Bandon XV, led by team captain, Jim Neville, took to the field wearing a new set of blue and white striped jerseys. Both sides were very evenly matched and at fun time neither team had scored. It was agreed to play an extra 15 minutes a side and with minutes left to play in the second period Bandon were awarded a scrum near the students posts and the Bandon scrum half jinked over for the winning try.
The Bandon XV, Billy O’Neill, C. O’Connell, J. Nagle, P. Phelan, M. Murphy, J. Hunt, T. Poland, J. J. Phelan, J. Neville, D. ONeill, G. Cunningham, J. Hunt, G. Barry, T. Quill, S. Murphy.
Great revelry followed the victory and the festivities continued late into the night. Next day was “Fair Day” in Skibbereen and the Bandon dealers arrived at the fair in Mr. Seaman’s car still emblazoned with the flags. This Bandon side had now come of age. They had the distinction of being the first County team to pluck the Minor Cup from the clutches of the major city clubs and now they set firm sights on greater horizons.
By 1928 rugby fever had taken a firm grip in every major town in West Cork and the rivalry, while sporting, was intense. Bandon, winners of the Minor Cup, and Macroom, the County Cup winners, were vying with each other for the title of ‘Kingpins’ of the region. Bantry, Skibbereen, Dunmanway and Clonakilty all had closely fought encounters with the aforementioned. Downriver, Kinsale were eagerly seeking recognition, while looming in the mists of North Cork were towering giants who had banded together to form the Kanturk club.
The flame that set this cauldron boiling was tendered by Kinsale businessman, Eamonn O’Neill who, perceiving the rapid growth of rugby in the area, presented a magnificent Silver Cup “for competition between the rugby football clubs of West Cork”.
The stage was now set for the first O’Neill Cup Campaign that since is annually contested with a passion and intensity that is characteristic only of West Cork. One has only to reflect on the jubilation and pride that greeted Clonakilty’s first ever win of the O’Neill Cup in 1982 to appreciate how well the charming competition has endured.
Over the years the format of the contest for the O’Neill Cup has been altered as the number of West Cork teams declined and more and more county teams sought inclusion in the competition. To-day, all junior clubs in the county take part, and recently some minor clubs have also been included.
However, it is significant to note that in the 50 years it has been played for it has only been won by clubs from outside West Cork on 10 occasions. Cobh were the first in 1945.
By hook or by crook.
In its inaugural year 1928-29, Kinsale defeated Bantry (3 – 0) in the semifinal while Bandon faced Clonakilty at the same junction. This game was a turbulent affair and the teams were tied at nil all at full time. Extra time was agreed upon and Nagle broke the deadlock by scoring a try. Then T. Poland put the seal on the match by adding another try.
The final was played in Kinsale on Wednesday, May 8th 1929. Ted Poland has vivid memories of the game and events leading up to it. “The referee, Mr. Russell, an ex-British Military Officer, was out on pension and had plenty of time on his hands; he was down in Kinsale staying with Eamonn (O’Neill) the donor of the cup. since the previous Wednesday. Kinsale were to win that cup by hook or by crook. Now we had a great game, alright, and we were all over Kinsale. We were over the line several times but Russell wouldn’t give anyone a try. We were running into the last 15 minutes and we still hadn’t a score and couldn’t and wouldn’t be let score. We were whistled back or a 25 was given every time, but, eventually, on the twenty five we got beautiful possession and the ball was passed quickly along the line to Billy O’Neill, who was playing centre, and J. J. Callaghan shouted to him, “Drop a goal, Billy”, and Billy duly kicked the goal and Russell had no choice but to give it to him. That was the only score of the game”.
The presentation of the cup took place at the dress ball that evening in Kinsale amidst riotous scenes of jubilation. The O’Neill Cup has been won by Bandon in at least 14 of the 35 recorded finals. Unfortunately, there are no reliable records to be found other than newspaper accounts, and, not all the finals have been chronicled. A far more hazardous source of winners is the actual trophy itself on which the victors affix their nameplates and even etch the name on the actual cup. As there are so many years unaccounted for on the trophy it would seem that a second base was attached and is now lost.
The benevolent Eamonn O’Neill had an effigy of a rugby player balancing precariously on the lid of the cup. The lid remains but the rugby player has, like some of his ilk, turned to the drink. In his case, however, it is believed to be the chilly and murky river Lee. Despite these slight blemishes the O’Neill Cup retains its fascination. It is a tonic that can bolster a struggling team, an incentive that will goad a passive follower into a passionate fanatic, but, ultimately the magic of the O’Neill Cup competition is that it is the potion that can transform mediocre team members into great rugby players.
Dr. Pat O’Callaghan.
That season (1928 – 29) Bandon defeated Clonakilty (6 – 3) in the second round of the County Cup and in the semifinal against Macroom, April 8th, 1929 J. J. Callaghan scored and converted the famous try already described by Ted Poland which put Bandon through to the final against Kanturk. (April 21st, 1929). Kanturk had an enormous team at the time. Dr. Pat O’Callaghan, the Olympic hammer Champion (1928 and 1932) played in the pack with his brother Con.
In the first half Pat O’Callaghan scored two tries and Bandon’s wing threequarter, O’Connell, replied with a penalty to make it 6 – 3 at the interval. Kanturk’s sheer physical strength took its toll on the lighter Bandon eight and Con O’Callaghan scored again which put the winning of the game beyond Bandon’s reach. “Bandon’s W. O’Neill and J. J. Callaghan played excellent football, Nagle gave a good exhibition in the threequarters; McCarthy and Phelan were the best of the forwards”. Cork Examiner April 22nd 1929.
Bandon: Full back: W. O’Neill; Threequarters: C. O’Connell, D. Nagle, J. Collins, J. Nagle, Halves: M. Poland, J. J. O’Callaghan, Forwards, J. J. Phelan (Capt.), J. Neville, J. Glynn, J. Desmond, T. Quill, J. Hunt, G. Barry, D. F. McCarthy.
Both Jackie Glynn and Barry McCarthy (Innishannon) were Doctors and played with College. Gerard Barry was a Garda Sergeant, Joe Collins a National Teacher, John Hunt and Charlie O’Connell were both Bank Clerks. J. J. Phelan, a member of the Phelan family, proprietors of the Hardware Store, was an adept at Gaelic Football as he was at Rugby and , very often, he played both codes on the same day. Denis, Jim and Ted Nagle were great athletes. Denis Nagle played senior rugby later with Sundays Well.
John Hunt was elected captain for the season 1929-30, once more, Bandon figured in the latter stages of the County Cup. In the semi-final Bandon met their old foes, Macroom, on Sunday 28th April, 1930. Bandon had “a finished set of backs”, but the scoring was done by forwards Harry Seeman, who got over in the corner and John Desmond “who grounded close in”. Callaghan added the conversion and a penalty. The final score was 11 -0 to Bandon. Bandon: E. Butler, W.I. McCarthy, C. O’Connell, D. Nagle, J. Nagle, J. J. O’Callaghan, D. T. Poland, J. Glynn, J. J. Hunt (Capt.), J. J. Phelan, H. Seeman, J. Desmond, T. Quill, J. Neville, Phil Phelan.
J. Swiney who played in the 1886 senior final had supplied his car, an Armstrong Siddley. to transport some of the team to the match. His nephew, Dan White, was driving and he joined in the celebrations afterwards and, seemingly, took one too many. The garage was at the rear of Old Bank House, Swiney’s own residence, and as he drove in the narrow passage he “tore the whole damned side out of it”. Mr. Swiney, not surprisingly, refrained from offering his car again.
The Kanturk Wasp.
In the final Bandon once again faced Kanturk in the Mardyke. Kanturk had been invited to play in the Senior Charity Cup that year and were strongly fancied to sweep the boards in all Junior competitions. Bandon were under no illusions about the difficulties facing them and spent long arduous training stints preparing themselves for the final. But, on the day of the match a major disaster occured.
Bandon knew that Kanturk’s trump card was the mighty duo of Dr. Pat and Con O’Callaghan and Bandon pinned their hopes on counteracting them with a fitter and more resolute pack. John Desmond was assigned the task of subduing the legendary Pat O’Callaghan and nobody doubted that he was not equal to it. The convoy of cars left the town, and then fate took a hand in events. John himself takes up the story.
“I was travelling in Harry Seaman’s car, a saloon car, and on the way a wasp got into the car and gave me a sting on the throat and it swelled out like a balloon. Instead of bringing me to the match I was brought to the South Infirmary for treatment and I wasn’t left out ’till after the game’. Ted Poland continues “Pete O’Sullivan was going in to watch the match. He was pulled out of the crowd to make up the number. He hadn’t even a pair of boots-, lie had two odd boots he got inside in the pavilion”. This incident undermined the team’s spirit and for the second year running Bandon were denied the County Cup by Kanturk in the final.
Having been runners-up for the past two years in the County Cup, Bandon approached the 1930-31 season with renewed determination. John Desmond, Kilbeg, was appointed captain and the club was confident that a major trophy could be annexed under his leadership. John played in the second row and he was greatly admired for his inspiring forward rushes. He was an accomplished footballer and later played Senior Rugby with the Cork Constitution side that reached the Munster Senior Cup Final against U.C.C. in 1935. In a torrid game Constitution came from ten points behind to draw the game. College won the replay by a goal and a try to nil.
Bandons optimism was well founded and the club enjoyed one of its most successful seasons ever. Bandon easily disposed of all opposition in the run up to both the O’Neill and County Cup finals. Bandon entered the Munster Junior Cup for the first time that year; they were the first West Cork Club to do so.
Bandon emerged victors from the South Munster section having defeated Constitution 3 – 0 (T. O’Donovan penalty). They now faced Richmond in the Munster Junior Cup semi-final in the Markets Field, Limerick on Sunday April 26th, 1931. Bandons reputation had preceeded them and a huge crowd attended the match despite the fact that the day was atrociously wet. There was a continuous downpour throughout the match and the game was stopped for a quarter of an hour but, when it became apparent the rain wasn’t going to abate, play continued. The ground was badly cut up and visibility was poor. A Richmond forward got over for a try which was awarded despite the pleas of the visitors that he had infringed the laws. Bandon staged a gallant counter attack and “were unlucky not to equalise when Jim Nagle, after a spirited dribble, saw his final effort go into touch in _goal.”
Bandon: Butler, J. J. O’Callaghan, T. O’Donovan, J. Nagle, D. Nagle, D.Poland, J. C. Stapleton, J. Neville, E. Barrett, J. J. Phelan, T. Quill, H. Mullally, J.P.V. Poland, J. Desmond (Capt.) J. Hunt.
The same year Bandon played Kanturk in the County Cup Final in the Mardyke on April 20th 193 1. Bandon finally avenged their many defeats at the hands of these colossi from North Cork. Bandon had the better of the forward exchanges which paved the way for a brilliant display by the backs. Early in the first half the ball was fed to Ted Poland who gave to out-half Stapleton. The ball was passed along the threequarters to winger Jim Nagle who was held but found Denis Nagle in support. He took the ball and dummied his way over for a try. John Joe Phelan and St. J. Don Byrne added the other scores.
Bandon: E. Butler, J. Nagle, D. Nagle, St. J. Don Byrne, D. 1. McCarthy, J. C. Stapleton, D. T. Poland, J. J. Phelan, E. Barrett, H. Seaman, J. Desmond, T. (Capt.), T. Quill, J. M. Poland, J. Neville, J. J. Hunt.
Bandon travelled to Kinsale to play the home side in the final of the O’Neill Cup on the I I th May, 193 1. The teams were played on to the pitch by the Ex-Servicemens’ Fife and Drum Band before a large attendance. Whatever hopes Kinsale had of winning the game were quickly dashed by an in-form Bandon XV who were up 13 points after 10 minutes; Stapleton (try), D. Nagle (try), J. Nagle (try), and in the second half trys were added by J. J. O’Callaghan, D. Nagle, T. Poland, . Nagle, J. Neville converted. Bandon won the game by 29 points to nil and Miss M. Neville presented the Cup to John Desmond, the Bandon Captain.
Ted Poland was elected Captain for the season 1931-32. Ted began playing in 19 26 and he was the regular scrum-half for the next 10 years and he partnered J. J. O’Callaghan in many South Munster trial games. He was a fearless serumhalf in an age when forwards exhibited little regard for the finer points of the game and even less for serum-halves. He repeatedly turns up in match reports for having scored himself or for making scores for his colleagues from his thrusting breaks from the base of the serum. As an administrator he has played a major part in the club’s recent advancement and Ted is a member of the Committee that organised this years Centenary Celebrations.
Every game Bandon featured in that season was played with the intensity of a cup final due to the fact that they were County and O’Neill Cup champions. Added to this a number of the team had gone to play senior rugby and the team was plagued with injury problems. No trophies came Bandons way that season. However, seven players from the club played in the County team; T. Barry, D. Nagle, D. T. Poland, J. J. O’Callaghan, T. Quill, P. Murphy and J. Desmond.
A Scintillating Run.
1933 saw Bandon back on the trophy trail once more with Tim Quill in command. Tim set about re-organising the team line-up. John Desmond was drafted into the centres to add more penetration. Dr. Tom Neville the U.C.C. captain and Munster star forward had returned that year. Bandon were unstoppable.
Once again they faced old foes Kanturk in the County Cup Final in the Mardyke on the 16th April, 1933. Kanturk had T. Daly, the Constitution and Munster winger, on their side while Bandon had D. F. Nagle “Sundays Wen sprinting wing threequarters in the centre”. The game deteriorated into a dour forward struggle. “Tom Neville, the Bandon hooker, cleaned up in the scrums but Kanturk had the better of the loose exchanges”. Kanturk were six points ahead with minutes left to play when “Denis Nagle got possession on the halfway line. The Kanturk defence was completely beaten by his scintillating run and he scored a try. Bandon were then awarded a penalty and the game ended all square.
The teams met the following Sunday afternoon and again this game was a tense affair. Bandon were ahead after five minutes by a try per Arthur O’Connor (Banker) but had to sustain repeated attacks. “From a serum in the Bandon 25 Daly (K) accepted a pass and after making an opening for Linehan (K) the wing man was nearly over but he was well held by Desmond”. Others mentioned in this great win were Poland, Neville, Phelan, Quill and Butler. Bandon:E. Butler, E. O’Connor, J. Desmond, W. O’Neill, T. Nagle, D. T. Poland, J. J. O’Callaghan, J. J. Phelan, T. A. Neville, T. Quill (Capt.), J. Neville, P. Murphy, C. Kennedy, J. M. Poland, P. Hennessy.
Ernie Butler was the youngest player on the side and he gave many sterling performances for Bandon. He and his brother played later for Bandon Harlequins in the late thirties. Paddy Murphy, Monarone, was another regular on the team and played senior rugby with Cork Constitution for a number of seasons. Denis Lane, Watergate Street, was a member of the team for a number of seasons and played with the earlier O’Neill Cup winning team.
There are many people who played with and supported the teams but who do not feature in the reports. Jerry Canniffe, Watergate St., Gus McCarthy, Cork Road, Jack Quill (Tim’s brother) and Donie Fitzgibbon, Oliver Plunkett St. Chris McCarthy, the plumber in North Main St., featured prominently at the time. Bandon’s greatest supporter and permanent touch judge was Chris Linehan, Connolly Street who used the alias Mr. Clifton, Bank House, when confronted by irate followers of the opposition. He recalls many occasions when he was obliged to make unpopular decisions favouring Bandon and he joins in the ranks of famous Bandon linesmen.
Bandon contested the Munster Junior Cup the next season but most of the cup winning side had retired or had left to play senior rugby in Cork. Tim Quill joined Sundays Well, John Desmond and Jerry Murphy played with Constitution Teddy Poland went to Dolphin. This was the end of a glorious era in the annals of Bandon Rugby Club and Bandonians had to wait sixteen years before the club would once again bring home a trophy.
The club fell on bad times in the mid 1930’s and ceased to play for a few seasons. Some young enthusiasts then set about forming a team but not without some difficulty as Cecil O’Driscoll, St. Patrick’s Quay, recalls: –
“Bandon in 1937/38 was at a low ebb in its fortunes, not least because of the economic war; emigration was rife and, of course, so was unemployment. The Rugby Club had gone out of existence. Yet at this depressing time, a few of us got together, many of whom had never played rugby, and using the old Devonshire Arms Hotel as a base, began to revive the Club. The Headmaster of the Grammar School, a Mr. McCutcheon, kindly consented to become President, at a time when many who were obvious candidates for the job did not particularly want to know us. He gave us great encouragement and T.D. Jones (whose brothers perhaps are much better known) became an excellent and determined Hon. Secretary. (though he never played the game). Tim Quill of the old team turned out with us and his presence gave us faith in ourselves.
We ran dances, including a Dress Dance, in the Devon, as well as a famous concert in the Town Hall and were able to buy a ball and set of jerseys. Our fixtures list was non-existent; we arranged matches when and where we could. At this particular time teams in country towns were very thin on the ground. The old pitch at the top of Cork Road, known in earlier days as Walsh’ field, was not available to us, so we played some matches in a field owned by Morgans at the back of Kilbrogan Graveyard.
A Change of Name.
Later on, the late Paddy Murphy of Monarone, a great supporter and player of the game, kindly put a field at our disposal. We were advised that it might be better not to be seen as the lineal descendants of the old club which had gone out of existence because the Statute of Limitations took six years to run. In the circumstances,- we choose to call ourselves the Bandon Harlequins. It was in Kilbrogan that we played a full Constitution Cup team, which, if not of vintage quality, still included such good players as Ned O’Connor, Ned Murphy and one or two of the Barrys, as well as the late Jimmy Reardon who played Centre for Ireland.
This was to be a warm-up for Con’s Cup Campaign but to everyone’s surprise, not least our own, we beat them and scored tries to do it. The late Sean Murphy, a good friend of ours, was referee in his “Sunday Suit” and was definitely more neutral to us than to the visitors. Another match provided novel opponents and in -its own way was historic; it took place in the early summer of 1938 against the British Garrison in Fort Camden. It was played on the Army Ground above Crosshaven. The Garrisons at Forts Camden and Carlisle always had useful players, some of whom played with a Cork Senior Club and yet we won 17-3 with a neutral referee on this occasion.
Only a few weeks later the Union Jack was hauled down and the Tri-Colour hoisted over the Forts at Camden, Carlisle, Spike Island, Castletownbere and Lough Swilly as the Irish Army took over and the Army of Occupation left after 800 years. Bandon would certainly have been the last team of “natives” to meet the British Army in friendly combat before they left. Needless to add, we were treated most hospitably; even if the fare consisted of dried eggs, powder milk and beer which, if not altogether congenial to the native taste, was decidedly cheap.
Rugby in those days was not nearly as well organised as it is today, but nevertheless it was great fun. Anything could happen and often did. Individual talent had a much better opportunity to flourish, probably because, even if we were not as fit as today’s players, we were in no way programmed and in spite of relative lack of fitness, serious injuries were virtually unknown. “We played for a few more seasons” recalls D.D.Harrington, “but travel was restricted as there was little petrol available due to the war, and when the club began playing again in 1949 I was the only survivor of the Bandon Harlequins team who lined out with the new team”. Cecil O’Driscoll went on to win three Senior Cup medals with Constitution and he captained their cup winning team in 1946. He was also capped for Munster on 15 occasions.
The Forties and Fifties
As the second World War was drawing to a close a group of young local sportsmen set about reviving the club. Pat O’Driscoll, “The Retreat”, describes the occasion: –
“The rugby clubs revival started in the early spring of 1946. The International Match Broadcasts which had been suspended during the war became a source of tremendous public interest. Scotland were beaten by Ireland that year and in a wave of National pride I bought a rugby ball and we started to play 5, 6 and 7-a-side matches on the bottom of the Field between the Bog Fields and the Square Road leading out to the Laurel Walk just below the entrance avenue to “The Retreat”.
The players then were Jerry Walsh of the Town Park, Dermot Marnell, whose father was a Manager in Slatterys Garage, Michael Staunton the Garda Superintendent’s son, Barry Walsh. Kilbrogan [fill, the late Con Deasy, Anthony Cremin of Coolmain, Andy Coursey. Convent Hill, John O’Driscoll M.R.C.V.S. Kilbrogan Hill and myself Pat O’Driscoll Paddy Donegan from Sunview played occasionally as did Keith Hunt and Mickey O’Hea”. “On Good Friday of 1946 we arranged our first 15-a-side match and it was played in Donegans lawn in Callatrim”. “We then arranged a match against a team in Bantry, who, like ourselves, were only in the process of forming a club” .
John “Doc” O’Driscoll, President of the club, has vivid memories of the trip to Bantry: – “There was great excitement in picking a team and getting transport. Eventually transport was ‘arranged and the players were told to turn up at Allen Square. We were truly amazed when our transport arrived. It was a tip-up truck that had been used for spreading stones the day before for the County Council. In the lorry for our convenience were two long forms which we had to sit on and all fifteen players had to lean together to keep their balance. The route to Bantry and return journey were the extraordinary part of the trip as the lorry driver took every back road possible to reach Bantry and our return journey to Bandon was over mountainous roads that took us nearly into Ballyvourney. The reason for all this was that it was illegal to carry passengers. The unfortunate man had a clear run to Bantry but. on the return trip, despite his evasive action, he was not so successful as he was apprehended by the police on three occasions.
When we arrived in Bantry some of the players decided they needed refreshments. Two of the heavy drinkers (mineral) of the team, Paddy Donegan and myself, arrived back to find the lorry had gone. We requested directions to the football pitch and ran the quarter of a mile to same only to find it was to the G.A.A. pitch we had been directed. A new set of directions were quickly obtained and we eventually got to the rugby grounds just in time for the kick-off.
The Bantry pack were heavier and taller by stones and inches than their Bandon counterparts. I played my first game of rugby that day at lock forward and my recollection of each scrum was a nightmare as we were pushed all over the place. A comment of mine that has been handed down was, “do not worry lads the ditch A ill stop us”. The score at this match was nil all.
Bandon: J. O’Hea, D. Donegan, D. Poland, P. Whelan, M. O’Hea, J. Walsh, P. Donegan. M. Staunton. B. O’Keeffe, T. J. O’Brien, L. O’Brien, D. O’Brien, J. O’Driscoll. 1). D. Harrington, A. N. Other.
The Demon Drink.
“After the game we were entertained by Bantry. We arranged a series of friendly matches throughout the season. A feature of these games that has since died away was a post-match meal. We really looked forward to travelling to play Highfield as we used to be entertained at the Imperial Hotel and then be invited to their dance which was the “in-piece” at the time”.
“For the trip to Bantry 5 shillings was collected from each player to pay tile lorry driver. Some of the older players had collected the money, who they were I can’t remember. A few rounds of drink were bought while the younger members were sent for minerals. On the return trip we were advised that when the lorry stopped at the Allen Square we should make our way quickly from the lorry as some of the money that had been collected had been spent. So instead of getting around £ 5 the unfortunate man only got something in the nature of two pounds”.
“The return match with Bantry was played in the Macroom Road pitch which was leased for seven months for a fee of £10 W. T. Kingston, Laragh, supplied the uprights- sawdust was used to line the pitch and, as there were no crossbars erected on the day of the match, Johnny Maher improvised with ropes. Hubert Hackett kicked a penalty for Bandon which was the only score of the game.
Pat O’Driscoll recalls the team. “Front row: William O’Keeffe, Kilbrogan Hill, recently deceased, myself, Pat O’Driscoll hooker, Michael Burke, Kilbrogan Hill, who subsequently died in Bondi Beach, Australia as a result of a shark attack. Second row: Edward O’Driscoll. The Retreat A Hubert Hackett, Bank of Ireland, Clonakilty. Back row: Johnny O’Hea, Liam O’Brien, North Main St., and Mickey O’Hea. Half backs: Jerry Walsh and Paddy Donegan. Threequarters: Peter Foley, Knockbrogan Tce.. Joe Collins, now in Bantry, D. D. Harrington and full back Jerry Williams. The match was refereed by the late Sean Murphy, District Court Clerk”.
“Some early players who joined us and who had never played rugby before were Connie Renzie O’Mahony, T. J. O’Brien, Liam O’Brien, Gordon Beazile, Crossbarry, Donal Murphy, Mishells and Edward O’Driscoll, Manor House”. Their knowledge of the game was gleamed from the radio commentaries and newspaper reports and in the earlier games the players lined out G.A.A. fashion, each man marking an opponent; the forwards in the opposition half and the backs in their own. The laws of the game pose enough difficulties for the experienced player but, in these games, the confusion can only have been diabolical. Another source of consternation was Judge Crotty’s insistance in standing beside the goal posts which was his accustomed position at Gaelic matches.
The training and coaching of the team was then taken over by John Desmond, Kilbeg and there was a marked improvement in the teams performance ‘At that time, in view of the difficulty in getting players locally who had any experience of rugby, outsiders had to be called on’ continues Pat O’Driscoll. ‘In addition to Rubert Hackett, already mentioned, we had Norman Moore, Bank of Ireland, Dunmanway, Michael O’Donovan, The Dock, Kinsale, Raymond Murphy, Castleview, Macroom. O’Leary, Macroom, Donal Lehane, Lissarda, who had won three Munster Senior Medals playing with Constitution, D.D. and Jim ‘Bingo’ Collins, Cork. Cal McCarthy, Cork, Peter O’Regan, Crookstown and Finbarr Kelleher, Kilmurry.
The only local players that we were able to get who had achieved senior status were Jack O’Regan, South Main St.. Michael Walsh, Town Park, Ken Hunt, Bank of Ireland, Bandon and we did, indeed, on two occasions, succeed in getting Cecil O’Driscoll who had been a prominent member of an earlier Bandon team and who played for Munster.
D.D. Harrington was another link that we had with a former team as a player. The Banks usually provided us with at least one-player – Jack Healy was a winger, Robin Wilson an out-half and Michael Meaney a wing-forward. Peter Nutting of Scartnamuck played in the second row and we had Ludlow Sealy-King of Harbour View as a wing-forward.
Bandon were ill prepared for their first competitive match of the 1949-50 season, an O’Neill Cup tie which was won by Cobh Pirates. There followed intense preparation for the County Cup campaign culminating in a fine 16 points to 8 victory against Dolphin at home. Bandon were drawn against Bantry in the first round of the cup and this was a ‘bloodthirsty’ affair in earnest. Encouraged by a boisterous home following the Bantry team were prepared to stop at nothing to achieve victory.
Seven Bandon players sustained fractures in this appalling debacle. The game ended in a 3 all draw, and the return match also ended in a draw, the referee failing to play extra time due to the fact that he did not know it was a replay. The matter was settled in Musgrave Park with Bandon going into the next round against Cobh on a 6-3 scoreline. Bandon avenged their dismal defeat in the O’Neill Cup some months previously with a solid 11 points to nil win.
Bandon met Charleville in the final in Musgrave Park on Sunday 13th March 1950 and at half-time both sides were tied at one try each; Sean O’Donovan had nipped in for a Bandon try following a scrum. Bandons second half performance was outstanding. ‘The heavier Bandon eight gave them superiority in the tight. The effect of this, however, was not noticeable until a reshuffle of the backs and better conditions made handling possible. Shortly after the start of the second half, H. Hackett kicked a penalty’ J. Walsh and S. Donovan had their trys near the end.
For the winners, H. Hackett, both at wing forward and scrum half was outstanding while S. O’Donovan and C. Lehane were most prominent amongst the backs and J. Collins, K. Hunt and D. Harrington in the pack were to the fore. (Cork Examiner 14th March, 1950). Bandon:- C. Lehane, D. Murphy, C. McCarthy, M. O’Donovan, D. Collins, J. Walsh, S. O’Donovan, C. 0′ Mahony, R. Murphy, T. J.O’Brien, E. O’Driscoll, J. Cohns, H. Hackett, K. Hunt, D. D. Harrington.
An accomplished place-kicker and a fearless loose forward, Hubert Hackett was Bandons most outstanding player at this time. He was employed as bank clerk in Clonakilty and later played senior rugby with Constitution and Landsdowne. His favourite post-match beverage was three or four raw eggs beaten into a glass of milk after which he would cycle to Inchydoney for a swim.
Jerry Walsh hailed from the ‘Town Park’ and Michael, his brother, who won a Senior Cup medal with Bohemians, played a few seasons with Bandon. Sean O’Donovan, Maulbrack, was a prolific try scorer and a tenacious centre; qualities which he has passed on to his son Donal, the current Junior team centre. The next season, 1950-51, Bandon reached the final of the ONeill Cup but were deprived of victory by Charleville on a 6 nil scoreline.
An incident, indicitative of the cavalier attitude of the young rugby player then as now, occurred earlier that year. Bantry were playing their first round of the Junior Cup against Sunday’s Well and, realising the odds were against them, they decided to tip the balance in their favour by drafting in some players from another club contrary to rugby dictum. They found an amenable ally in T. J. O’Brien, the Bandon Captain, who recruited another bonvivant, Renzie O’Mahony, who was the Vice-Captain. The ‘guests’ excelled in the raw but powerful Bantry pack and T. J., who was propping, revelled in the earthy style of play that Bantry engaged in.
In a moment of frenzied euphoria as the ‘Well’ pack were being driven abjectly backwards, T. J. bellowed, ‘C’mon Bandon, we’ll run ’em into the mud’. Now to the casual onlooker biding his time for the pavilion to reopen, this faux-pas might well go unheeded but, to the poor unfortunate who was suffering the brunt of T. J.’s aggression, the cry, ‘Bandon’ was crystal clear as it was delivered from no more than an inch from his ear.
The game was up for our intrepid duo and the matter was referred to the Branch. The Bandon club were severely censured and an extraordinary general meeting was called. T. J. and Renzie were relieved of their posts and suspended for a fortnight. However, the club was never one to bear a grudge for long, for at the self same meeting the Hon. Secretary, Edward O’Driscoll, was instructed to do all in his power to reinstate both players for the forthcoming Minor Cup game. Donal Murphy, Mishells, was elected Captain and Con Lehane, Vice-Captain.
The 1951-52 season was most successful one for Bandon, for in that year both County Junior Cups were won. Bandon defeated Naval Services in each of the semi-finals, at home in the County Cup competition and in Spike Island to the O’Neill Cup. Mallow were beaten 9-3 in the ONeill Cup final in Musgrave Park but, in the County Cup final also against Mallow, the issue was not as easily decided. Bandon snatched an early lead when a smart heel from an early ruck and snappy handling by their backs saw Michael Walsh cross for an unconverted try. Then, seven minutes from time, when Bandon heeled a scrum on their own line. B. Cussen. Mallow, dived over for a try. Extra time was played but it faded to decide the contest.
The rugby season had been extended by one week to provide time to play this game but. as no further extension was forthcoming, the laurels were shared. Bandon:- D. F. Kelleher, C. Lehane, P.D. O’Regan, M. Walsh, S. O’Donovan, R. Wilson, P. O’Driscoll, M. Meaney, E. O’Driscoll, T. J. O’Brien, C, O’Mahony. J. -N. Collins, B. Walsh, P. Donegan (Capt.) D. Lehane.
A striking feature of the Bandon team was the size of its pack. Edward O’Driscoll. The Retreat, in the hooking position, must surely have been amongst the biggest ever called upon to fill that slot, the usual bastion of the diminutive and lithe. However, he accounted well for himself, as can, be seen from the match reports, both as a striker and a line out player. Jim Collins, Southern Fruit Co., and Renzie O’Mahony were reliable ball winners out of touch and the back row of D. D. Harrington, who was injured for the final, Donegan and Barry Walshe, Kilbrogan Hill, completed a devastating forward line up. Pat O’Driscoll was a very complete footballer and he played at full-back as well as at scrum-half.
Robin Wilson and Michael Meaney, the Club Honorary Secretary for many years, were Bankers, D. F. Kelleher, Kilmurry, Peter O’Regan, Crookstown and Donal Lehane, Lissarda, played for other Clubs but were eligible to play as they resided within fifteen miles of the town. Con Lehane, Kilbrogan Hill, a fleetfooted winger and a resolute tackler, was later to captain the club in 1955-56. That same season Bandon had a good run in the Minor Cup but were narrowly beaten 6-3 by Constitution who had to stave off a tremendous effort by Bandon in the second half. T. Murphy kicked two penalties for Constitution while Pat O’Driscoll kicked a penalty for Bandon in the second half.
On the social side the club certainly wasn’t lacking. As mentioned earlier every visiting team was entertained and a ‘meat tea’ was provided. The first club dance was held on January 3rd 1951 in the Devonshire Arms Hotel and these dances became an annual event. Following the O’Neill and County Cup victories in 1952 a dance was held in the Esplanade Hotel, Courtmacsherry, at which Minatures of the O’Neill Cup were presented to members of the team. These mid-summer dances also became a feature of the clubs social calendar and later the venue was changed to Inchydoney at which the famous Dixielanders made their debut at an R.F.C. dance.
This might well. explain the current trend of our ‘with-it’ members who nightly journey to a coastal watering hole in summer time to fraternise with their Templehill counterparts. On the 28th January, 1954 the club undertook a joint venture with the Tennis Club. A dance was arranged with no less than two bands providing the music, The Regal and Tommy Power and his bank. The dance was a financial flop and the club records divides the blame between ‘the exceptionally bad weather and the attitude of another local sporting body which would not allow some of its members, who are also members of the Tennis Club to attend’.
Jack Deasy, Curryclogh, who was Honorary Secretary in 1957, was instructed to engage a popular band for a fund-raising dance in the Town Han. Hugh Dunphy and his band were booked to play. The dance was poorly supported and the hall was practically empty. When the band got up to play the club members were appalled to find he had brought along a full orchestra. Having paid for the customary round of sandwiches and drink for the ‘band’ nothing remained in the coffers to pay the entertainers. At the next meeting the suggestion that a further fund-raising dance should be held to provide for the expenses of the fund-raising dance was understandably defeated. Shortly after this the Annual Dress Dance on St. Stephens Night was instituted and so popular was this function that in latter years four sittings hand to be arranged to provide for the attendance.
The structure of administrating the club which was set up in 1949 helped in no small way in ensuring the clubs survival through some lean times in the ’50’s. Ed. Shanahan, was a very able administrator who kept many a wayward member on the straight and narrow. As is traditional in Bandon the President of the club I was required to play a very active role during his office and there was none more efficient than Ernie Whealer. There were many dedicated Captains during this period, Paddy Whelan, Edward O’Driscoll, Denis Donegan, John Doyle and Tom Canniffe.
Bandon had many colourful alicadoos but one outstrips all others for sheer brilliance in this noble rugby art form. The mention of his name will bring a glimmer to the most sullen eye. The circumstances surrounding Peter Nutting’s arrival in town is described by Grattan Neville: ‘His correct name was Peter Cockswell and, in order to inherit a big legacy from his maiden aunt, he had to change his name to that of her family which was Nutting. The legacy became his if, after so many years, he was neither bankrupt nor in jail and that is the reason he came here. He later moved to Clonakilty when things got too hot for him in Bandon. When he eventually came into the legacy he paid off all his debts and he went abroad with a helicopter spraying crops’.
With an imposing frame and an artistocratic accent he first joined Constitution where he talked his way onto the senior team for a brief few games. This gave rise to the pun which for years was used in defence of a useless in Templehill, ‘well I suppose he’s better than Nutting’.
Circumstances were particularly bad on one occasion when Peter invited the Hon. Secretary, Con O’Donovan, Enniskeane, to dine at his residence in Scartnamuck. Con got stuck into this fine feed that was put up in front of him. About half-way through the meal Con remarked, ‘Peter, this is grand stuff. What is it? I To which Nutting replied ‘That is my favourite too, Con; that is rook pie’, whereupon Con immediately jumped up from the table and inquired the way to the bathroom. Nutting was instrumental in organising Bandons first tour to play Old Wesley in Dublin on March, 10th 1956. Bandon were narrowly beaten 3-0 and the entire team stayed in one flat procured by Con O’Donovan.
The next season 1955-56 Bandon and Skibbereen met in the County Semi-final in Bandon and, typical of the many closely fought encounters with our arch rivals, the game ended in a draw, nil all; In the replay in Skibbereen the home side got through on a 6-3 scoreline.
Bandon: P. Buckley, J. Phelan, A. Neville, M. Donegan, D. Coughlan, P. Whelan, T. Canniffe, J. Doyle, J. McGrath, D. Donegan, J. Daly, B. O’Donovan, B. Walshe, P. Connor, L.O’Brien.
Canniffe The Schemer
The late ’50’s were rather lean years if judged by cup successes. It was a period of team building and membership grew sufficiently to enable the club to put out a minor, or underage team, in 1954. This astute move on the clubs part ensured a supply of reliable players, many of whom served the club very well over the years. Tommy Canniffe, Fox’s Street, was the scrum half par excellence and many a mediocre fly-half was made to look good on the service this dynamic man provided. In later years he concocted a win for Bandon against a glib city side by the most unusual expedient seen on a rugby pitch. Bandon were having the better of things but were unable to score from play. They tried many ploys from which they hoped to force the opposition into conceding a kickable penalty but all to no avail. Then as the game was drawing to a close Canniffe, from the base of a scrum, whipped out a stray pass which the backs failed to catch. The opposition stormed up to boot the ball to safety only to find, to their consternation, that what they thought was the ball was, in fact, a dried cow turd. The ball was safely nestling at the No. 8’s foot and Bandon scored from the result penalty.
Donough Coughlan also started with the minor team of ’54 and crowned a brilliant rugby playing career, during which he played on successful County Cup and O’Neill Cup winning teams, by propping in the minor side that won the Minor League in 1972, 18 years later.
The highlight of the rugby season then was the Easter Weekend games against the touring sides. Known as the Welcome Wales Week’ many Welsh rugby teams availed of the cheap rates offered in this tourist promotion. Ogmore Vale were frequent visitors and, although each tour was greeted apprehensively by the towns hoteliers for good reasons, they afforded Bandon the opportunity to learn and play top class rugby and afterwards relax, socialise in a convivial rugby atmosphere at the dinner held in their honour.
Briton Ferry, a particularly destructive breed, whose mementos of Bandon included a complete bathroom suite, toured in 1955. Bandon invited a number of Internationals to play in the game and, afterwards, a ‘grand dance’ was held in the Devonshire Arms at which Dodo Downing’s Quartet supplied the entertainment.
Bandon: C. Lehane, D. Coughlan, M. Donegan (U.C.C.) J. Phelan, T. Canniffe, D. Barry (Munster and Constitution) B. Walsh (Sunday’s Well) T. O’Sullivan, D. Crowley (Ireland and Constitution) L. O’Brien, P. Nutting (London Irish and Constitution) S. O’Dea (Constitution) P. Whelan, M. Madden (Ireland and Sunday’s Well) B. Wain (U.C.C.)
Lam O’Brien of North Main Street, gave trojan service to the Club both as a propforward and Committee member throughout the fifties and early sixties. Having forgotten his shin guards at one game Liam improvised by stuffing the Sunday newspapers inside his socks and, although they may have appeared ungainly, they proved very effective.
Doctor Tom Neville, the old Munster forward, was another great administrator in the fifties. He investigated the possibility of insuring the club’s rugby teams – a discerning provision unheard of at the time, but which has recently been made compulsory for all clubs by the I.R.F.U. A local wit suggested that the reason for the high premiums was due to the fact that his sons, Anthony and Grattan were playing at that time. A story which adds credence to this observation happened in 1960 when Grattan was the Club Captain and Tony was refereeing the game. Grattan was playing in the back row of the scrum and, despite the pleas of his backs, he refused to let the ball out of the scrum. As Grattan deftly dribbled the ball at his feet, Tony launched his boot at his exposed posterior and ordered him to let out the ball. Grattan retaliated and was promptly sent off.
In the early sixties there were eight country clubs competing in Junior Competition: Mallow, Cobh, Bandon and Skibbereen in Cork, Tralee, Killarney and Castleisland in Kerry and Abbeyfeale. An away match to any of the latter constituted a days journey and sometimes more. John Doyle recalls a game in Castleisland: ‘Castleisland were only. starting at the time when we met them in the County Cup in Castleisland. We went out on the pitch thinking it would be a soft one for Bandon. When they came on the pitch three of them had no boots on, just socks. The forwards were wearing ordinary berets with a big elastic tying them around their chins as scrum caps. I need not tell you our hopes rose even further when we saw this outfit. In the first scrum there was a shout, ‘Squeeze Castleisland’, and we were shoved half-ways back the field. One of the players: without the boots, kicked penalties from near the half-way line. We were beaten 16-3. When we arrived back at the pub in which we changed there was no water and we had to buy flagons of cider to wash outselves’.
A Winning Streak
Many fine players had departed the scene when Bandon got back on a winning streak in ’62 – 3. Paddy O’Connor’, Watergate Street, Jer. D. Herriot, South Main Street, Jimmy Daly, Oliver-Plunkett Street, Con O’Donovan, Ballineen, John Drummy, Aherla and Paddy Whelan, Clondalkin, were unfortunate to play in a period when the sideboard remained empty.
Vinn Poland will be remembered for a famous try which he scored in a vital O’Neill Cup game against Mallow. He rounded the entire defence and walked the last 25 yards to score the try which put Bandon into the final in 1961. Having played a storming first half against Cobh, in the final, Bandon unaccountably let the title slip out of their hands by 6-3 margin.
Bandon: T. Neville, N. Dromey, R. Lovell (Capt.), W. Mason, D. Coughlan, T. Canniffe, P. Whelan, N. Mulhern, D. Donegan, L. O’Brien, V. Poland, G. Neville, B. O’Reilly, J. Doyle, Des Donegan.
The Donegan family, Sunview, is synonymous with Bandon rugby club. Paddy, Maurice and Des won Munster Senior Cup medals while playing with U.C.C. Maurice was capped for Munster and Denis began his rugby career in 1949 and retired in 1976, a remarkable span of 27 years. Their contribution to the club is immeasurable. On his return to the club in 1961 Maurice took on the arduous task of coaching the home side. He innovated indoor training in the Boys Club and, as Captain in the 62-3 season, he saw his efforts amply rewarded. He had the rare ability to exhort the very best from each player and in a short time transformed the heretofore social side into a competitive and skilful team. Tommy Canniffe summed up the attitude of the team in his own inimitable way, “Anybody who could stomach raw eggs in the morning was taking them”.
On April 29th, 1963, Bandon met Killarney in the County Cup final in Bandon. Played in front of a large attendance and in brilliant sunshine the game was a marvellous contest between two well-matched sides. “There was a series of fierce forward battles with the victors having the edge in the line-outs and scrums while Killarney’s dominant factor lay in their being very lively in the loose. Des Donegan ran forty yards to touch down near the comer flag. R. Quinn, Killarney, replied shortly afterwards with a converted try.
In the second half, after a brilliant interpassing movement, Pat O’Reilly secured Bandon’s second try and shortly afterwards added a penalty. One week later the O’Neill Cup final was played in Musgrave Park. The newspaper reported that “two members of the Bandon team had to travel a total of 3,600 miles to play the final as the game was postponed five times in all”. Although Bandon were short Des Donegan, they succeeded in gaining the laurels. Pat O’Reilly, who created a record by scoring in every game he played during the season, continued to uphold his status by scoring two tries during the game.
Bandon: D. Wixtead, W. Murphy, P. O’Reilly, A. Harvey, T. Neville, T. Canniffe, J. Desmond, G. Neville, Denis Donegan, T. Phelan, R. Lovell, N. Goeing, 3 Doyle, M. Donegan and J. Murphy. Pat O’Reilly was a Veterinary Surgeon, who practised with the ‘Doc’, John and William Murphy were sons of Sean Murphy who played in the late twenties with Tom Phelan’s father and John Desmond, Jerry’s father. Jerry Desmond later distinguished himself playing senior rugby with U.C.C. and Constitution.
“Don’t ever again do that ………..
Maurice Donegan’s try against Killarney when he duped five defenders into tackling the wrong man is regarded by many as the finest seen in Macroom Road. He also had a hand in an equally famous ‘non-try’. A rugby team caters for every genre of human being from the confident athlete to the cumbersome mullocker. While the former’s dreams are speckled with colourful dashes and graceful swerves the latter snores away the aches of a hard days scrummaging and mauling secure in the belief that scoring trys is the sole prerogative of the dandy backline. The following yam describing such a player is told by Grattan Neville, “Maurice Donegan was in the centre and he was tackled just short of the line; who happened to be up with him but the Bandon prop forward. Donegan literally handed him the ball and all he had to do was fall over the line; but this was the first time the said prop ever had the ball in his hands so he glanced at it for a second and threw it over his head away back the field. After the match he turned to Maurice and said, ‘Donegan, don’t ever do that again, boy”.
A favourite haunt of a good number of the team was Sandy’s pub, especially on a night when they arrived home late from an away fixture. One night the guards raided and in the subsequent court case the Judge asked, “Look here my good man, why didn’t you clear your house? ” It had been made known to the court that the entire Bandon rugby team were the ‘found ons’. Sandy’s reply to the Judge was “Who do you think I am, Sonny Liston? “
While attending Bandon Grammar School Rex Lovell first donned the royal blue jersey of Bandon at the tender age of fourteen in a junior match. He recalls Tony Neville arriving at the doorstep of Abbeymahon, Timoleague on numerous Sunday mornings in the mid fifties issuing the clipped order, “Hurry into the car, we’re short again”. Since then Rex won 12 O’Neill Cup medals, three County Cup medals, a West Cork minor medal and he was Captain of the victorious 7-a-side team that won the Pfizer Cup in 1981. He was captained the club on four occasions and has been capped on numerous for Cork County. A man of extraordinary courage Rex will be playing rugby an incredible 30 years this season. Bandon won the O’Neill Cup in 1963-4 under his leadership. The competition was played on a league basis at the time and in a fiery game against Skibbereen in Bandon on April 6th, 1964 the home side secured the cup for the second year in succession. They were foiled in their bid for the double by Abbeyfeale in the County Cup final in Musgrave Park. Abbeyfeale were hailed as the ‘,club without a grounds”, in the Cork Examiner, but the local wits dubbed them “the town without a team” for some obscure reason. Bandon were beaten 3-0 despite having Irish International forward Henry Wall, Crookstown, in the side. Bandon had 8 senior players in the side but were unable to cope with the harassing tactics of the Abbeyfeale pack.
Bandon: N. Coakley, M. Curran, D. Donegan, B. O’Neill, J. Desmond, T. Canniffe. A. Harvey, D. Donegan, T. Phelan, R. Lovell, S. Hayes, H. Wall, J. Good, J. Doyle.
The Middle Sixties
In the mid 1960’s Bandon had an influx of new talent which provided the Junior side with the quality and depth that had been lacking for far too long. Jim Good, Kinsale, Fergus Appelbe, The Farm, Noel Hickey, Aherla, George Ferguson. Kilpatrick, Bob Harmon, Killarney, Ivan and Mervyn Shorten, Enniskeane and Bill) Roycroft, Lissaphooka, had all played schools rugby with distinction. The experienced players who remained from the preceding seasons included Tommy Canniffe, Rex Lovell, Jerry Desmond and the great Convent Hill stalwart Seanie Buttimer, who will be playing club rugby 21 years this season.
Captain for the season (1965-66) was Brendan O’Neill, Kilbrogan Hill, who had played on the O’Neill Cup winning team of ’64. Bandon crowned a very successful season by winning the O’Neill Cup in a famous game in Bandon. “Both sides went into the fray with unusual abandon, few holds were barred and the large attendance certainly got plenty to enthuse about. The early retirement of Tommy Canniffe with a nasty head injury only served to heighten the suspense as up to then Bandon had been doing most of the attacking. Instead of losing heart, Bandon seemed to gain inspiration from this set back and, eventually, full back, Brendan O’Neill , kicked a fine penalty to put them into the lead. Rex Lovell crossed for a try but the conversion was narrowly missed. Cobh replied with a try near the posts but to the general Cobh dismay, John Love inexplicably missed the conversion.
If the victors had any particular hero, it was undoubtedly Jerry Desmond. The Cork Con senior started in the out half position but went to the base of the serum when Tom Canniffe left the field. He gave a masterly display both in defence and attack, kicking astutely, letting the occasional ball to his backs when a chance presented itself. His courage in going down on the ball and his ability in getting back to cover was remarkable under the circumstances. Others to impress for the winners were George Treacy, Rex Lovell and Brendan O’Neill in the backs and in the forwards, hooker, 0. Lane, Jim Good and Sean Buttimer.
Bandon: B. O’Neill, G. Treacy, Rex Lovell, B. Hosford, F. Appelbe, J. Desmond, T. Canniffe, G. Ferguson, 0. Lane, D. C’Mullane, S. Buttimer, B. Harmon, D. Beazley, J. Good, N. Hickey.
“After the game”, remembers Denis O’Mullane, Dublin, “Brendan and I went to his house for a bath as there was no room left in the shower room in the Munster Arms. Billy, his father, brought in a bottle of whiskey and explained, with befitting pride, that the O’Neill Cup had returned to his house after a lapse of 37 years when they won it for the first time. We were both overcome with emotion and we finished the bottle. The occasion had a profound effect on me and, in a house certainly not noted for heavy drinking, I had to be helped from the bath”. That same year the Inter County Cup was instituted with Cork meeting Tipperary in the first game, which they won 12-6. Brendan O’Neill, P. O’Connell and Jim Good played on the team.
With Rex Lovell once again at the helm Bandon had a hugely successful*, season in 1967-68. For the first time Bandon reached the area final of the Munster Junior Cup having beaten Dolphin (8-0) and Old Christians 13-9 in a replay. In the Area-Final they played a 3 nil draw with Highfield but, in the replay went under. In the County Cup game with Abbeyfeale Bandon were without Jim Good, Robin Hanna, Brendan O’Neill, Rex Lovell, George Treacy, Jerry Desmond, Bob Hannon and Paul Quirke and were understandably beaten but, by, the respectable score of 13 points to 6.
That season saw Bertie Smith, Timoleague, togging out for the first time in the Bandon colours. A great athlete and accomplished footballer, he was capped for Ireland against France in a B International. Paul Quirke was a brilliant scrum half. In the Junior Cup match against Dolphin he was unfairly tackled after kicking the ball. A penalty was awarded where the ball landed, 10 yards from the line and 10 yards from the touchline, a most acute angle. Amazingly, Quirke elected for a drop at goal and succeeded.
Once again Bandon and Cobh met in the O’Neill Cup final. They trashed Charleville 29-0, defeated Skibbereen 9-8 with a try in injury time by George Treacy, Billy Roycroft scored the only try in their win over Mallow, and in the final Quirke scored a penalty and Treacy a try to win 6 points to 3, Mick Wally scoring a try for Cobh.
Bandon: F. Appelbe, G. Treacy, B. Roycroft, 1. Shorten, T. Stokes, R. Patterson, P. Quirke, P. O’Connell, N. O’Connell, S. Buttimer, B. Hannon, B. O’Neill, R. Lovell (Capt.), R. Hanna, N. Patterson.
Bandon reached the final of the County Cup in 1968-69 under the captaincy of Fergus Appelbe. In the semi-final against Skibbereen they won by I I points to 8 and they were firm favourites to take the title. Bandon were expected to dominate the forward exchanges but they were completely thrown off their tracks by a robust Mallow eight and were defeated by 8 points to nil.
Bandon: D. Burke, B. Smith, F. Appelbe, 1. Shorten, A. Hosfore, R. Patterson, B. Roycroft, G. Ferguson, N. O’Connell, S. Buttimer, B. Harmon, T. Stokes, J. Ryan, R. Hanna, D. O’Brien.
This pattern continued through to the next season with Bandon again contesting the County Cup final, this time with Cobh, but again Bandon let the game slip out of their grasp with victory in sight. The Cobh wingforward intercepted a pass on his own 25 and raced away to score the winning try. Bandon: R. Roycroft, F. Appelbe, M. Shorten, T. Hickey, 1. Shorten, J. Desmond, B. Roycroft, B. Homibrook, N. O’Connell (Capt), S.- Buttimer, B. Harmon, G. Ryan, N. Hickey, R. Hanna, R. Lovell.
Ivan Shorten was the centrepiece of a famous controversy earlier that year. Cobh needed both points against Bandon to win the O’Neill Cup outright. They were leading comfortably by five points when Shorten punted the ball ahead but failed to reach the ball before going into touch in goal. To the abject dismay of the Cobh team and the amusement of his own, Ivan was awarded a drop goal. The referee had mistaken Ivan’s unusual style of kicking for that of a drop kick and, as the ball had crossed between the posts, gave the score.
The Minors. From 1965 onwards Bandon fielded a second or minor XV and, although they enjoyed little success in competition. they were an integral part of the club as many of the stars of later years learned their rugby at this level. John O’Driscoll, then Honorary Secretary of the club and Donough Coughlan were the prime motivators and, while Donough was a regular, ‘Doc’ was often called up to tog out.
Others who were regular minor players but who also played on the junior team in competition included Dan O’Brien, M. O’Leary, Tony Gaffney, Ted Lucitt, Donal Crowley, Barry O’Farrell, Ray Mullen, Get Coakley, Finbarr Creedon, Dan Lynch and Joe McLoughlin. Tadhg Twomey, the Irish 56 lbs. over-the bar champion played in the back row and such was his immense strength that on many occasions he actually hooked the ball himself as the entire scrum would buckle when he shoved. His brother, acting on the instructions “Tackle anybody not wearing the blue jersey”, is reputed to have levelled’ the referee in one game as the unfortunate man was passing the ball to the opposition scrum half following a mis-put-in. Although their knowledge of the game was limited, these players paved the way for the 1971-72 team that won the minor league and were beaten finalists in the Cup under the captaincy of Niall O’Driscoll.
When Noel Hickey took over the captaincy of Bandon in 1971 he immediately set about re-organising the weekly training sessions. The attendance at these sessions had slumped to an all-time low and the effect of this was seen time and time again on the field. That Bandon had the talent to win any Junior Competition there was no doubt, but the drive and initiative to do so was lacking. The first training session was advertised but nobody other than the captain turned up. Undaunted, Noel ran around the pitch for two hours, togged off and went home. News of this incident quickly filtered through the rugby grapevine in town and the result it produced was profound. The old hands, newcomers, alicadoos, hasbeens, in fact anybody with the slightest connection with the club literally thronged to training that winter. For oncetraining was done on a set schedule and every group was catered for, from the haughty juniors to the lowly minor B’s. The coaching that members got in the very basics of the game that year has in no small way been responsible for the phenomenal success of the club in the past decade.
Some Astonishing Decision.
In the 90 years that Bandon had been playing competitive rugby, this season and the next were doubtlessly among the finest and yet the most disappointing. With the Junior League virtually wrapped up, Bandon slumped against Skibbereen and those two points cost them the title. In the County Cup Competition, having beaten Tralee 10-7 in the semi-final, Bandon went into the final against Cobh Pirates as favourites. A tag that never hangs lightly around Bandon’s neck, it was not the reason for Bandon’s downfall that day as the Southern Star explains: “While both sides parted without serious acrimony there were some extraordinary decisions and “happenings” which will cause controversy in rival camps for many a day”. The score was level at 9 all. Then the trouble started – a ball was dribbled over the Bandon line but almost miracul ously Paddy Moloney, the Bandon scrum half got back to cover and dived on the ball. Mick Walley in turn dived on Moloney and, though most spectators considered that Moloney “had saved day”, the referee awarded a try to Cobh”.
“Worse was to follow; with time ticking away, it was obvious that the next score would decide the issue, and with the Bandon line under heavy pressure, Cobh’s hopes were high. Nobody expected, however, that the winning score would come from a simple kick-ahead, and when Frank Walley chased a ball over the Bandon line, a Bandon defender, Mervyn Shorten, was seen to touch down first, but the referee awarded a try to Walley, again most amazingly”. (Southern Star 6th May 1972.)
The Bandon minor team of that season 1971-72 had a desirable blend of experience and youth. Donough Coughlan, Dan O’Brien, Fergus Applebe, Billy Roycroft and Billy Good were regular players in the sixties. Danny Burke, a gifted out-half, Peter and Donal Crowley, the bane of many a scrum-half, and Eoin Keane, who would later be capped for Munster provided the youth and exuberance. Dan Kissane, the club’s Munster Branch Representative for the past 10 years played in the backs and Niall O’Driscoll was captain. Niall, who captained the minor team for three season and the junior team in 1974-75, has the unique distinction of leading his side to cup victory each of these seasons. His leadership qualities as Honorary Treasurer of the club has been a major factor in the Old Chapel project.
The minor team got maximum points that season to win the Minor B League and were runners-up in both the McCarthy Cup and Minor A Cup, in the latter by a mere point, having missed a penalty in the dying minutes. In the Munster Junior Cup, Bandon %%ere defeated by Constitution by the narrowest of margins – 4-3, but were finally rewarded when they defeated Skibbereen, the holders, in the O’Neill Cup final in “Knockbrogan Park” by 12 points to 3.
Bandon: Conor O’Mahony, Ivan Shorten. Bertie Smith, Aidan Hickey, Dan Kissane, Tom Hickey, Paddy Moloney, Eoin Keane, Noel O’Connell, B. Hamil, Bob Harmon, Bob Hosford, John Killeen, J. Goggin . Rex Lovell.
THE LAST 10 YEARS IN BRIEF.
During the period 1972-77 Bandon had the most successful Junior side in the county. The ONeill Cup was won for five successive seasons, (from ’72 to ’76), the Quinlan Cup on four occasions and in the 1974-75 season Bandon earned itself the title “Kings of the County” by winning the county Cup, O’Neill Cup and Quinlan Cup. This was an extraordinary achievement for very early in the season the club captain, Niall O’Driscoll, sustained a serious leg injury which prevented him playing for the next few seasons.
Bandon had players of the highest calibre. playing in every position, many of whom made their mark at senior and junior Inter-provincial level. The immensity of the Bandon pack was an intimidating sight and the forwards were the basis of many of Bandon’s successes. The speed and tenacity of flankers John Kileens and Rex Lovell allied with the strength and determination of No. 8 Jim Good produced many memorable tries. Jim Sheehan, an Irish University Cap in ’78 and current lock with London Irish. Liam and Jerry Nolan, Jerry Deasy, Tom Fullam, Ivor Shorten, Mick White. Noel O’Connell, Eoin Keane, Paddy Desmond, Sean Buttimer and John O’Sullivan. were all regular forwards. The backline included Paddy Moloney, Peter Desmond. Reggie Roycroft, Tom Hickey, Kevin Dillon, Mick O’Mahony, Clonakilty. Conor O’Mahony, Kieran O’Driscoll, Donal O’Donovan, John Stallard, Niall O’Driscoll and Danny Burke. At this time Frank Milne joined the club and his contribution as coach had a desirable effect on all teams. Training once more became a priority and club spirit soared with even the lowly minor B recording notable victories.
After memorable victories over College and Constitution in 1977/78 the elusive league title was denied to Bandon by a Highfield XV that included Irish International Terry Moore. This was a time of re-building the team as many of the ‘greats’ of the earlier period had departed to greener pastures. With an infusion of new blood in the late seventies, Bandon were back on trophy trail. Des Prendergast, Mick O’Mahony, Barry O’Sullivan, Cameron Sterritt and Finbarr Walsh quickly moulded into the pack and Ronan Gillooly, Anthony Desmond, Declan Crowley and ace kicker, Billy Skuse, joined the backs.
A controversial Junior Cup defeat by Constitution at home was quickly forgotten in 1979-80 when Bandon once again won the County treble; O’Neill, County and Quinlan Cups. With Peter Desmond’s appointment as club coach in 1980 a greater emphasis was put on ‘total rugby* and success soon followed.
1980-81 saw a marvellous win over Constitution in Templehill in the Munster Junior Cup and, following an outstanding Cup campaign, Bandon were narrowly beaten in the semi-final by Thomond. Once again Bandon took the three county titles. Injury plagued the team in 1981-82 and with many of the team sidelined as a result Bandon failed to reach the final stages in the junior competitions.
The minor teams came good in the late seventies with two West Cork Cup titles in 1980-81 and 1981-82. In the latter season the A’s were beaten in the Minor Cup semi-final by Dolphin, having beaten Sundays Well in a spirited game in Musgrave Park. The fourths finally won the Tait Cup in 1980-81 having contested a number of finals and helped to create rugby history when Bandon won five titles in one week.
In 1971 Bandon had their first underage victory when the under 12’s won the Highfield 7-a-side trophy. The same personnel with some newcomers won the South Munster Under 18 cup in 1977. They defeated Highfield 3-0 in a tough defensive game. Louis O’Mahony kicked the winning penalty. In 1982 Bandon contested the Cork Senior Charity Cup and had a convincing victory over Highfield. In the semifinal Bandon, led by skipper. Finbarr Walsh, put up a gallant fight but were overcome eventually by Sundays Well the holders.
A DECADE OF MEMORIES by “Pro”
It began, oddly enough, at the Rose of Tralee festival in September 1972. As a casual follower only of rugby, a game I had never played, I was invited by Peter Crowley and Niall O’Driscoll to accompany the Bandon squad to the seven-aside tournament then run by Tralee R.F.C. in connection with the festival. Clubs from all over Munster at junior level had entered as well as a senior squad from St. Marys in Dublin. To this day I have never discovered why a senior side was allowed compete in an otherwise junior competition. My first surprise was that Bandon were good enough to reach the final against the Dublin club, whose team contained two names. then household names in Irish senior rugby circles – Paul Andrucette and Tern- Young. The latter was also prominent player in the rise to fame of Cork Hibernians in his native Cork where his grandfather, if my memory is correct, was the late ‘Pa’ McGrath a keen member of Cork Constitution rugby- club. A Fianna Fad T.D. for Cork city for years, he was also Lord Mayor at the time of his sudden death whilst being driven to the train on his way to the Dail. His grandson, who played in Tralee that day, was also later to become well known on R.T.E. screens where, as an army officer, he led the “rangers, mighty mighty rangers” in a well known advertisement seeking recruits for the Irish army of which he himself was a member.
Though well beaten by St. Marys in the final, Bandon were invited back later that evening to the Tralee clubhouse to receive the runners-up trophies at a social function. Here I was to witness my first taste of the many outstanding social sides to the rugby scene with which I was ultimately to become so familiar over the next decade. As entertainers the Bandon players did themselves proud that night. It was, of course, the ballad session era and the St. Marys players and ourselves were still raising the rafters into the early hours long after the other clubs had departed. Looking back I feel that night helped to a large extent to cement that extra bond of friendship which still exists between Bandon and Tralee who coincidently also celebrate their centenary this year. Little did I think when I wrote a brief report on the Bandon club’s achievements that day for the ‘Bandon Brieflets’ in the ‘Southern Star’ the following week, that I would still be doing so ten years later and for a vastly expanded club. During those ten years I have held the roles at various times of Hon. Secretary, selector, organiser/manager of the fourth ‘adult’ team and was honoured with the club presidency in the 79/80 season.
Junior Cup Final.
Looking back over the decade, memories of the achievements and disappointments on the field of play come flooding back. That very season which began in Tralee saw the same Bandon captain Noel Hickey of Aherla lead fifteen Bandon players to their first ever Munster Junior Cup final against Cork Constitution at seasons end. At Musgrave Park on a Sunday evening in April 1973 Bandon were to taste the bitter salts of defeat at the hands of “Con” and, more particularly, at the hands of their outhalf, Adrian Murphy, who was later destined to become the brother-in-law of our own Barry O’Farrell, of South Main St. One of the Bandon backs that evening was Bertie Smith of Timoleague who learned his rugby at Bandon Grammar School. The following season he was to join Constitution and afterwards, represented them at Munster senior level and at Ireland ‘B’ level in an international against Scotland. For the record the Bandon players in that Munster junior cup final were: – Conor O’Mahony, Dan Kissane, Paddy Moloney, Noel Hickey (Capt.), Noel O’Connell, Rex Lovell, Kevin Dillon, Fergus Appelbe, Jim Sheehan, Bertie Smith, Jim Good, Ivan Shorten, Eoin Keane, Henry Boyd and John Killeen. The names are not in order of team formation. Of those, Jim Sheehan has gone on to win Munster senior titles with U.C.C. before Joining London Irish with whom he toured Nigeria recently. Dan Kissane is our esteemed current Rep. at the South Munster branch meetings. Noel Hickey became captain of the Dolphin senior squad and Noel O’Connell has been very instrumental in getting Dunmanway, where he is now E.S.B. ‘boss’, off the ground in rugby- The evergreen, Rex Lovell, still plays the odd game with Bandon. Ivan Shorten Paddy Moloney are, with current club captain Eoin Keane, still members of the Bandon Junior squad. Kevin Dillon had played a large role in the good fortunes of Clonakilty since they became established as a rugby force. likewise, Jim Good Played no small part in the recent revival of Kinsale R.F.C.
‘Tulips to Amtsterdam
In September 1974 the Bandon dub joined the ‘jet set’ and set off on a long weekend tour to Amsterdam the organisation of which was entrusted to myself. It was a marvellous trip’ which built up a tremendous club spirit which later manifested itself at the end of the season with Bandon capturing both O’Neill and County Cups for the first time in thirteen years. During the trip itself Bandon had a good victory over host club Naarden. However, the social ‘happenings’ would fill a book which would, no doubt, bring the wrath of the censor on us anyway. Suffice to say that one member of our party got free bed and breakfast the first night and, but for the diplomacy of Grattan Neville on the other occasions. a major deterioration in Irish/Dutch relations was quite on the cards. It was in that season also that Niall O’Driscoll broke his leg and his duties as junior captain were taken over by his vice-captain John Killeen. Johnny’s dedication was such that he travelled to the Tuesday and Thursday training sessions in Bandon from Cahir. Co. Tipperary where he worked at that time. At the presentation of the Count) Cup in Musgrave Park Johnny insisted that Niall, complete with crutches. should receive the Cup. The nonplaying captain replied that Johnny’s insistence was only because he wanted Niall to pay for filling it.
I can only recall one season during the seventies when Bandon juniors had a bare cupboard at the end. Some tremendously exciting junior cup games were played during these years, in particular the tussles with Midleton. An incident that still clearly comes to mind was the unbelievable tackle by Kieran O’Driscoll on a Midleton player to save Bandon from defeat in one particularly memorable game at Macroom Road. Kieran was one of the finest backs to don the royal blue jersey of Bandon. One O’Neill Cup final that stands out in my memory was played at Musgrave Park on a Saturday evening during a petrol strike. It was a tremendously exciting game which Bandon won by nine points to seven, thanks to the long range penalty kicking of Mick O’Mahony, now of the Clonakilty Club.
Injury Time Robbery
My most memorable Junior League game was that against U.C.C. during the captaincy of Tom Hickey in the 77,’78 season. Bandon have always found the students difficult to beat but they did so that day by twenty two points to ten. Here again the boot of Billy Skuse. surely now Bandon’s record points scorer of all time, was a major contributory factor in that marvellous win. The 79/80 season was that of the infamous Munster Junior Cup game against “Con” at Macroom Road. This is surely a game never to be forgotten by Bandon followers, but for the wrong reason. After Billy Skuse had converted his own try to give Bandon a clear five points lead with only minutes remaining, many local followers headed for home in the safe knowIedge that Bandon were ‘home and dry’. Almost unbelievably, “Con” scored a try in injury time which was converted with the last kick of the game to snatch victory from Bandon in circumstances as dramatic as Offaly’s victory over Kerry in this year’s All-Ireland football final.
However, that defeat was to spur on Bandon to their greatest ever season (since winning the Munster Senior Cup in 1986) the following year, when they turned the tables on “Con” at their own pounds at Templehill in the first round of the Junior Cup. Led by captain Des Prendergast they went on to reach the semi-final against star Limerick club. Thomond. Again a one point defeat – sixteen points to fifteen – was to be Bandon’s lot in a memorable game by the side who beat U.C.C. in the final proper. However. though missing out on its top target once again – the blue riband of junior rugby – Bandon swept the board at county level taking the County. O’Neill, Quinlan and the Cobh fifteen-a-side tournament cup in their stride.
Triple Cup Win.
The final day of that season is likely never to be surpassed by the club as, in addition to the County Cup won by the junior team that day, the Bandon club’s second team under Barry O’SuIliv an. won the West Cork cup for the first time and Michael Cronin, captain of Bandon’s fourth team brought probably the first ever rugby cup home to Crossbarry when his team won the Tait Cup for the first time also. Though last season 81 -82. Bandon juniors only succeeded in retaining the Cobh trophy, their achievement in reaching the semi-final of the Cork Charity Cup by defeating the Highfield senior team by eighteen points to six made national headlines. Unfortunately that senior competition, in which Bandon represented the junior clubs of the county, was to take its toll in injuries to Bandon players from which the team never recovered for the rest of that season.
It those memories tend to lean heavily on the achievements of our juniors it is probably because the strength of any club in any code is measured by the performances of its first team. That is not to overlook those of the other three adult teams which are in reality the reserves of the junior side. One memorable victory achieved by a team other than the four adult sides, was that of a fine Bandon fifteen which won the under eighteen cup for the only time in 1977 when they defeated Highfield in the final at Musgrave Park. Though underage rugby is not this writer’s scene as it has a section of its own in the club, I feel obliged to mention this victory in particular as Bandon players of the U 18 side have since contributed much to rugby at adult level. Players that particularly spring to mind are Liam Cosgrave. (Cossie) of Dessert, whose blond head at wing-forward was reminiscent of the great Jeanne Pierre Rives of France, whose achievements he might one day have emulated had not his academic pursuits whisked him off to Dublin where he A as forced by his studies to give rugby a ‘back seat’. One of Bandon’s finest prospects. he recently qualified at U.C.D. in Chemical Engineering. He had just reached Bandon junior level having come up through the ranks, when he was forced to depart for the metropolis.
Another fine prospective forward was Michael O’Mahony, now playing on the Dolphin senior side after good service to Bandon. Sean Dorney went on to play with Waterpark seniors but has now. thankfully, returned to the Bandon fold. Many of the rest of that team are still playing with Bandon at some level. A particular milestone for the club was that day in Dunmanway in the 75/76 season when the Bandon ‘fourths’ made their first appearance. On that day Bandon rugby club fielded four adult teams for the first time simultaneously. It was whilst playing at fourths level in his first year in rugby that I witnessed the most amazing drop goal of the decade by current Bandon junior player Anthony Desmond. It occurred almost from kick-off in the Tait Cup final against Old Christians at Midleton. That long range wind-assisted effort is still talked about by referee Breathnac who had understandable doubts before allowing the score. When later in the first half another Michael O’Mahony (whom we hope to welcome back to the club now that he has been appointed C.C. in nearby Innishannon) scored a fine try, Bandon seemed set for victory. However, Christians former junior centre, Ray Coughlan. proved otherwise in the second half.
As we now enter the club’s second century, I hope the social side of rugby, which seems to be an integral part of the scene the world over, will not diminish. It is only when one travels to matches outside the country that one appreciates the exclusive Irishness of the game here. It is in such social gatherings that the Irish culture in music and, indeed, language seems to surface much stronger than in similar social gatherings at home. The Bandon club is lucky to be endowed with more than its share of ‘characters’. People like Peter Crowley who somehow always seemed to turn the most normal event into a mini riot and Tom Fullam whose anecdotes usually begin with ‘did you hear about the one’, but few, if any, of which would be printable for public consumption. Then there is Niall O’Driscoll’s long infatuation with his ‘own ding-a-ling’ or the obsession of the diminutive Johnny Killeen in ‘downing big men’. The club also has its quota of perfect gentlemen from the evergreen Rex Lovell. to Tom Allen of the younger generation. Like all clubs it takes a relatively small number of a hard core of dedicated people to keep the ship afloat. Bandon club had been fortunate in the past decade in its choice of first team captains who probably have a larger responsibility in rugby than captains in most other field sports. Noel Hickey, Rex Lovell, Niall O’Driscoll, Ivan Shorten, Reg Roycroft, Tom Hickey, Eoin Keane, Des Prendergast and Finbarr Walsh have each contributed in his own way to a memorable decade.
Now, as we celebrate the largest development in the club’s history with the opening of the club’s new complex at Old Chapel on Sunday October 10th, we realise it would not be possible without the foresight of people like Derek Harte or Tony Neville who were largely responsible for purchasing the ground. The work of people like treasurer Niall O’Driscoll. Joe McLoughlin and Barry O’Farrell in fund raising activities, John Merwick our Hon. Secretary who had the unenviable task of compiling a history of the club spanning its one hundred years existence, and the general committee including Peadar O’Mahony, Kevin O’Brien, Dan Buckley, Sean Dorney, Barry O’Sullivan, Henry Skuse, Rex Lovell, Reg Roycroft, Donough -Coughlan, Ray Mullen, Ivan Shorten etc., who have been meeting without a break at least weekly for the past twelve months, have each provided the framework for the picture of Bandon rugby in its second century.
No sports organisation can survive without a firm foundation at underage level and here Bandon are lucky to have people like Donough Coughlan who has virtually dedicated his life to coaching Bandon juveniles in the basic rugby skills. Here, too, Anthony O’Regan, Aidan Donnelly, Dickson Walsh and, especially Ray Mullen and John Merwick, and others down the years have helped to put the club on a sound footing.
And so, we commence the second century of Bandon Rugby Football Club under the presidency of John (Doc) O’Driscoll who was largely responsible for keeping the ship on course during darker days. The new clubhouse should provide a great social amenity for the clubs members who cover an area from Timoleague to Crossbarry and Coppeen to Riverstick. Can this be the season where Eoin Keane, who has given incomparable service to the club, can sufficiently motivate his charges to make the great breakthrough in the Munster Junior Cup? No player would be more deserving of the honour than the long playing and most dedicated centenary season club captain. Already Niall O’Driscoil’s second string have ensured that the sideboard at Old Chapel will not be bare this season, when his nine-man squad of Declan Crowley, John O’Mahony, Michael Cronin, Tom O’Mahony, John Sheehan, Dermot O’Leary, P.J. O’Driscoll, Dickson Walsh and David Sullivan retained the Pfizer seven-a side trophy. However, the Junior Cup would be the crowning glory of a century which has already seen Bandon capture the Munster Senior Cup in 1886. It would also close on a dramatic note a decade in which I would been proud to have played some part at administrative level.
Peadar O’Mahony P.R.O. Bandon R.F.C. September ’82.
The Old Chapel Project
THE OLD CHAPEL PROJECT
In the 1880’s Bandons grounds were situated about two miles outside the town in a large field adjoining the Alcatel Site in Laragh. The Macroom Road grounds has been the club’s temporary home since 1926/7. A few games were played in a field opposite the Bandon ‘Co-op’ gates on the Macroom Rd., and the club also played a number of seasons in the field behind Kilbrogan Graveyard.
With the rapid growth of the membership in the 1970’s it became necessary to have a second pitch and, as a readymade pitch was available at Ballinadee, the club secured its use for a few seasons. In 1972 a group of members began to appraise the matter of a permanent home. A committee was set up to investigate the possibility of purchasing our own grounds but the club finances were low and as the I.R.F.U. interest subsidy on ground purchase loans was not available the idea was shelved. Then in 1974, Lord Bandon let the club know that he would be willing to sell 6.5 acres on the Clonakilty Road.
The committee of Derek Harte, Donough Coughlan, John. O’Driscoll Niall O’Driscoll, Rex Lovell and Tony Neville had the land valued by an auctioneering firm which put a valuation of El 2,000 on the field. As the land was to be used as a sports ameniety for the youth of the town Lord Bandon sold it to the club for one quarter of its commercial value. A further £10,000 was spent in developing the pitches. This money was raised from members who gave £100 interest free, loans and from the ‘car draw’ which was run each Christmas from 1976 to 1979. As the first pitch was nearing completion Derek Harte designed a plan of a pavilion and so set in motion the pavilion project.
A centenary Committee was formed at an extraordinary general meeting on the 28th March, 1980. Derek Harte was elected chairman and the Committee comprised of Eoin Keane, Jerry Desmond, Ted Poland, Peter Lynch, Renzie O’Mahony, Tony Neville, John Doyle and John Merwick. At the A.G.M. which was held on the 14th May, 1980 Derek Harte announced the committees intention of completing the ground development project at Old Chapel and erecting a Pavilion. The Honorary Treasurer Niall O’Driscoll describes the sequence of events “At the A.G.M. which was held in Flor Crowley’s Lounge in 1981 the Finance Committee of Joe McLoughlin, Barry O’Farrell and myself was formed with the main objective to raise sufficient money to enable the club to build its Pavilion in the Centenary Season in 1982. This Committee met weekly throughout the summer and in September launched its first project a 500 club draw which raised £25,000 and which gave out £12,000 in very attractive prizes. With this £12,000 in the bank it was decided to raise a further £20,000 by offering 10 year club membership for El 50.
These targets seem outlandish initially. However through excellent support and assistance from club members and players both targets were reached. With £30,000 in the bank in the building fund we went to our bankers who offered to finance the shortfall in the pavilion; this £55,000 loan being repayable over the next 7 years. The finance committee has decided to continue the 500 club draw while the pavilion is being paid for and plans are well in hand for the next draw which commences next month and which will have European holidays and cash prizes each month.”
On 2nd March 1982 Eoin Keane was awarded the contract to erect the Pavilion which was designed by Dan Buckley, engineer. The western pitch at Old Chapel has been in use for three seasons but the decision to sow the grass seed on the eastern pitch was deferred two years ago when it was discovered that the water soakage was being hampered by a clay pan which had formed below the subsoil. To combat this problem an extensive drainage system was installed at a cost of £5,000 and in mid Autumn the grass seed was sown. The dream has finally become a reality.
The unexpected closure of the Munster Arins Hotel in 1979 which had been the club’s base since the early sixties left the club without showering and changing facilities. The Devonshire Arms Hotel was the Rugby Club base in the 1950’s. When Flor Crowley offered the club the use of the rooms at the rear of his premises at 77 South Main Street the club gratefully accepted and it has since proved to be a most satisfactory and amenable arrangement.
This history would not be complete without mention of our home for the past 56 years – Macroom Road. It conjures images that will never be forgotten by all who have attended a cup match there: – John Doc anxiously pacing the touch line, Ted Lucitt, trousers tucked in socks, poised with the magic bottle, Fergusons blare, Kenos charge, Billy’s boot, Tombo’s tackling, Peters hand-off, Skibbereens downfall, Prenders barge, Molonies dummy, Christians unbelief, the piddling rain, Neville’s sunvisor, Donoughs half-time hat, Farrells bridge table, Wilmots speed, Toms faint, Constitution beaten, Christians glee, Edwards deers talker, the rickety gate, Flors forum, Reggies break, the rep match, the final whistle …….
Successful Span The first trophy won by Bandon Rugby Club was the 1886 Munster Senior Challenge Cup. As the club now commences its second century of competitive rugby it is fitting to conclude the history of the last 100 years by recording the Bandon team that won the last trophy of the century past. This was the Under 12 team which won the South Munster plate, the West Cork Cup and the Highfield Festival Plate. Bandon: R. O’Sullivan, L. Hayes, M. Lyons, L. Waugh, C. O’Mahony, B. Brady (Capt), M. Ronan, 1. O’Donovan, K. Mullen, J. Coughlan, D. Curtin, R. Merrick, R. Sheehy, N. Coughlan, N. Coakley, J. Kelly, P. Brennan.
“AUXILIO DEI PARVA CRESCUNT”