Bandon RFC gears up for another successful season

Posted on: 8th August, 2018

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: John Bohane

Bandon Rugby Club enjoyed a memorable year during the 2017/18 playing season. Their junior 1 team were crowned Munster Junior League winners for the second time in their history, while their U18 team captured All-Ireland glory. Bandon Rugby Club possess a very bright future, both on and off the pitch. John Bohane catches up with two of their leading lights from last season, team manager Stephen Rowe and team captain Tom Ferguson as they strive for more glory this coming season.

Stephen was thrilled to guide the West Cork rugby team to Munster Junior League glory, which arrived a quarter of a century after their first Munster junior league success. Following their success in Munster, Bandon almost secured their status in the upper echelons of the domestic rugby game. They ultimately succumbed to a hearbreaking seven point defeat following their play-off tie played against Bruff as their brave bid for senior status failed at the final hurdle. Stephen is confident the disappointment of that defeat has extinguished as they look forward to another successful year this season. “It was an honour and a privilege to manage the Junior 1 team in Bandon last season. We don’t really dwell on the play-off game against Bruff. We have moved on from that now as we prepare for a new season and a new set of challenges.”

Bandon started last year in high spirits having won the Munster Junior Cup the previous season which ensured confidence was high as they faced into the start of their Munster league campaign. Stephen firmly believes their cup success provided the springboard for their league oydssey last season. “Well obviously at the start of the 2017/18 season, we were on the back of winning the Munster Junior Cup, so we knew the talent and the desire was there to achieve further success. The team had formed a great bond after the Junior Cup success and that set us up well for the new campaign. As the Munster J1 League developed last season, the team gained in confidence as was very evident from the manner in which they won their last four games with bonus point wins. The secret to our success was undoubtedly a combination of the talented group of players that we had, coupled with a dynamic coaching platform. The coaches really brought out the best in the players and instilled a level of resilience that served us well as the league campaign developed.”

The successful team manager is lavish in his praise for the overwhelming support the junior team received from their hard working committee who ensured all their requirements were met. “With any successful club, you need a supportive and hardworking committee. We had that in spades in Bandon, led ably by former president, Ricky O’Sullivan and chairman Michael O’Mahony. The level of commitment from Ricky and the committee was unbelievable. The time that they and others devote to the club is quite amazing. The club are lucky to have long term servant Dan Murphy coming in as President. His drive and enthusiasm for the club will ensure it goes from strength to strength.”

Bandon Rugby Club also possess a very passionate support base and very generous sponsors. Stephen is indebted to their fans and sponsors for their invaluable contribution last season. “We are fortunate to have a very progressive club. The fans and sponsors see that and get enormous satisfaction from sharing our ‘on-pitch’ success. We rely heavily on the support from our generous sponsors and our supporters. We really appreciate their involvement and encouragement.”

Stephen has relished his role as team manager of the Bandon J1 rugby team. He has immensely enjoyed his role working with the talented Bandon junior players. “I have to say this group of players are a great bunch of lads, not only for what they achieve on the pitch, but their support for each other off it. We had a superb team captain in Tom Ferguson last season. Kerry Desmond who comes in as captain this season will also be a great leader. They are all great ambassadors for Bandon RFC and I have really enjoyed working with them.”

Stephen has enjoyed a rapid progression through the coaching ranks at Bandon RFC. He has worked his way up from coaching underage teams and in a very short space of time, he has established himself as one of the most progressive and talented coaches currently plying his coaching trade in the Munster junior rugby circuit. “I didn’t play rugby at Bandon, but I always had an interest in the game and played at other junior clubs in Dublin and London. I was living in Bandon for a few years when I was approached to assist with the underage section. A year ago I was asked to help manage the J1 squad and I was happy to give my support.”

Stephen was greatly assisted in his new role by renowned rugby coach Regis Sonnes who has sadly departed Bandon RFC after two successful seasons to act as co-head coach with French rugby giants Toulouse. Stephen thoroughly enjoyed working with the flamboyant French rugby coach. “Regis is an exceptional coach and of course he will be missed in Bandon. However, he would say himself “the club are closing one chapter in our history, and opening a new chapter”. We must move forward and learn to adapt to a new coach. I have no doubt that the players will buy into the new coaching philosophy and make further progress this season.

The club have announced the appointment of Andre Human as incoming Head Coach of BRFC and Bandon Grammar School. A native of South Africa, he comes with over 15 years experience as a professional coach. He has experienced success in Ireland in the past when he coached Old Crescent RFC and Corinthians in Galway, as well as being highly regarded coach in South Africa. Bandon are very excited at what he will bring to the club and the school over the next few years.”

Bandon RFC underage teams are also currently riding high on the crest of a wave at present. A plethora of their underage sides enjoyed substantial success last season which augurs well for the future of the club. Stephen is hopeful they will continue their progress all the way into the junior team. “ Our underage section had incredible success last season and this bodes very well for the future of the club and our adult teams. In particular, the U18’s winning the All-Ireland championship was a fantastic achievement. We depend on the underage teams to bring the next generation of players through. Seeing the number of young boys and girls turning up in BRFC on a Saturday morning to play at all underage levels is truly inspiring. However, we can’t be complacent about this and need to ensure we retain as many players as possible.”

Pre-season training for Bandon RFC has recently recommenced. Stephen is eagerly looking forward to the start of their domestic season. “I will manage the J1 team once again this season. Pre-season training has already started and we are looking forward to the new league and cup campaigns. I think when you are reigning champions you are always going to be the team that everyone wants to beat, so it will be another tough season. The Munster J1 league is really competitive, but I’m sure we will be prepared for the challenge.”

Bandon RFC both on and off the pitch seem well poised to enjoy considerable success both on and off the pitch in the foreseeable future. The club recently announced ambitious plans to upgrade their pitches and facilities. Stephen is confident the club possess a very bright future. “The club is in an enviable position with fantastic facilities at our disposal. We have just announced an ambitious development plan to upgrade our pitches and clubhouse, including improved facilities for our ever improving ladies teams. The future does look bright for all sections of the club and we look forward to more success in the upcoming season.”

Tom Ferguson who captained the Bandon J1 rugby team to Munster league glory last season is still coming to terms with the success they enjoyed last year. “It was always a great honour to captain the club, but to be lucky enough to do it for three years and have some success was fairly special. It was a truly fantastic season, only the second time we ever won the Junior League.”

Tom pinpoints the appointment of a full time coach in Regis Sonnes as a pivotal factor in all the success the club enjoyed, both at adult and underage level last season. “we sat down at the start of the season and winning the league was our aim. We had come third and second the previous two years and had just won the Junior Cup, so knew it was within our reach. The main changes were the U19 team winning the All-Ireland five years ago and the winning attitude that group of players and coaches brought to the team. The other big change was the decision by the committee to hire a full time coach in Regis Sonnes. His professional background and level of coaching brought us that extra step.”

Bandon will be regarded as the team to beat this season once the Munster Junior League resumes in the coming weeks, Tom is hopeful they can live up to their favourites tag once again this season. He is delighted that Stephen Rowe will manage the team once again this season. “This was my sixth season playing with Bandon. I started playing in Bandon Grammar and played with UCD while I was in college. I then joined the club when I moved back. We started back training a few weeks ago, it will be a big challenge going out as reigning champions. There will be more pressure on us, but we are looking forward to the challenge with a new coach coming in. Stephen is a great manager, he is always very organised and never found wanting for anything.”

The underage success the club enjoyed last season greatly pleases the ace player who loves representing his beloved Bandon RFC. “The club had an amazing season at underage. I don’t know if any other club has won so much and got to so many finals in one season. Hopefully we can get some of these players through to the adult team. I know that some players will be aiming to play for senior clubs and further, but it would be great to see some of them stay with us and help get this club to another level. ”

Tom is very confident Bandon RFC are poised for a very successful future both on and off the pitch as the club gears up for another successful season. “I am very confident the club has a bright future. There is a great committee in place with a great amount of volunteers getting involved every year. We have great coaches and huge numbers of underage players playing every year. We have had great success at junior level and there is a ladies section going from strength to strength. Off the pitch, there is a major development plan in place for the club and a Lip Sync fundraiser in November. All this leads to an exciting time ahead for the club.”

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