WEST Cork LGFA club Bandon are hoping to utilise a thriving underage set-up to challenge for adult honours in the near future.
Bandon ladies football club was founded by John Desmond, Paudie Crowley, Cormac O’Connor, and Donna Moloney in 2010. Enjoying early success, the Lilywhites claimed the 2014 Cork LGFA 13/15-a-side county junior title.
Unfortunately, that success could not be sustained and it took another couple of years and refocusing on underage player development before Bandon began to re-emerge as a force.
“That brilliant junior squad that enjoyed county success in 2014 was pretty much broken up by 2016,” Bandon LGFA PRO and current West Cork LGFA chairperson Brian Cotter told.
“Since then, the club has enjoyed a good bit of success at underage level thanks to huge numbers signing up during the intervening years. Bandon has won the last four West Cork U12 A LGFA championships and three of the previous five U14 West Cork titles as well.
“That is where we are currently building from and, as a result, Bandon should be able to field a second team at U16 this year.
“The hope is to (possibly) field two minor and two junior teams in years to come.”
Competing in the 2020 Cork LGFA junior E championship, a young Bandon side defeated Carrigtwohill and Dripsey but lost to eventual county champions Naomh Finbarra and Knocknagree, narrowly missing out on a county semi-final berth.
The latter edged the Lilywhites 2-6 to 1-8 following a thriller in both teams’ final group outing.
Yet, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
“Bandon currently fields an extremely young junior team where only one player was over the age of 21 last year,” Cotter added.
“There is now a massive number of young players between the ages of 14 and 17 that are coming through who will hopefully feed into that adult set-up in due course.
“We only made the decision to start up a junior team again in 2019. It was our first year back into it.
“So, progress is being made and we were very unlucky in our last championship game at home to Knocknagree last year.
“A win would have qualified us for a county final. We are a young team and just missing those one or two experienced players that other successful junior teams seem to have.
“Bandon’s players deserve immense credit for their efforts last year and things are looking good for the future.”
In terms of playing numbers, Bandon look after approximately 200 (underage and adult) players. The west Cork club’s reputation for producing quality underage talent is well deserved.
To underline the point, Sophie Hurley, Emma Tarrant, Sarah Buckley, and Laura Barr were part of the West Cork Division’s senior county championship-winning squad in 2020.
“Seeing those Bandon girls succeeding at senior level with West Cork brought huge enthusiasm to our club,” Cotter admitted.
“It is still very much a young club in Bandon right now. With that comes enthusiasm and energy.
“Hopefully, we will get a full run at the championships later this year to help us keep progressing through the junior adult grades.”
Bandon is one of the region’s busiest towns when it comes to sport.
Rugby, soccer, camogie, athletics, and many other sports are competing for schoolchildren’s attention so how have Bandon managed to retain so many young ladies footballers?
“The number one challenge facing all sports clubs in Cork and beyond right now is player retention,” Cotter admitted.
“Bandon LGFA is also drawing players from a number of other clubs that don’t have ladies football in the local region.
“So, we are constantly communicating with all the sporting clubs in Bandon and other GAA clubs to make sure players are available and not being overworked.
“Thankfully, communication between the Bandon LGFA and camogie clubs is and has been brilliant for some time. That makes life easier for any of the players involved in both sports.”