A TOUGH local derby awaits Bandon as the side relegated from Senior A last year look to get off to a strong start in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier IHC.
Newcestown is the venue as the Lilywhites take on neighbours Valley Rovers tonight (7.30pm).
While their panel is transitioning after the loss of some stalwarts, they are hoping to build on a positive RedFM Hurling League campaign, finished in third place in Division 2 Group B.
Manager Pat Barry is hopeful that they can build on that as they gear up for the championship.
“Looking at the final championship game last year against Cloyne, we have six or seven fellas who have retired,” he says.
“We’ve a lot of young fellas in and they’re mad for road, which is great, and they didn’t take a huge amount of motivating.
“We had a pretty good league. We had plenty of games and a lot of fellas got game-time, with the results going well.
“The spirit is good and fellas are looking forward to it. At the moment, we have a clear bill of health.
“You’re always worried when you’re coming off the back of a football game the week before, but at the moment we’re okay.”
As well as selectors Eoin Duggan, Andrew O’Connell – who would be playing but for recuperation from a serious injury – and Limerick native Brian Mulcahy, Bandon have former Na Piarsaigh player Pádraig Gould as selector.
“Pádraig is new this year,” Barry says.
“I was in school with him, so I knew what he’d be like coming in and how seriously he’d take it. His sessions have been very good.
“They’re not down fully focusing on hurling or football and it gives guys a chance to reset the mind as well a little bit.”
Though Barry is from Glanmire and played for Sarsfields before transferring to Bandon, he’s well aware of the cachet that a Bandon-Valleys clash holds, ensuring that there’s no lack of motivation.
“That’s what you’d be hoping anyway,” he says.
“I suppose they would all have gone to school together and grown up together. Come Friday, we’ll have very little to say, they’ll be going flat-out and I know that Valleys will be the same.
“I know that they’ve a very good set-up there and they’ve had a couple of very good under-age teams – I was over Sars U21s about five years ago and we were put to the pin of our collars by Valleys.
“It’s a tough group, obviously, with Valleys, Inniscarra and Youghal, but that’s why you play it – you want competition and you want to beat good teams to progress.
“There’s no such thing as an easy championship and I don’t think that people would want it either.”