ILEN Rovers don’t have any time to sulk and feel sorry for themselves ahead of Sunday’s Premier SFC relegation play-off against Bishopstown in Clonakilty (2pm).
They suffered three defeats in a row and finished bottom of the West Cork group of death, but if Ilen beat Bishopstown they’ll keep their premier senior status – that’s the carrot dangling in front of them.
However, if they lose, they’re relegated to senior A, so there’s a lot on the line for Ilen. Their first job is to pick themselves up after group defeats to Newcestown (3-17 to 1-7), Carbery Rangers (0-14 to 0-8) and Castlehaven (4-19 to 2-4).
‘We have to look at this as a final to get into the premier senior next year rather than a relegation game,’ explained Ilen selector Flor O’Driscoll, who knows how important it is that they head into Saturday’s match in a positive mind frame.
‘At least we have a two-week break since the Castlehaven game and that gives us a chance to, most importantly, mentally prepare for this.
‘I think some of our issues in the last few games is a lack of belief. We had a turnover of players from last year and we needed a good league campaign to build new players in, get a few wins and build up confidence. Unfortunately, no team got that opportunity. Having said that we had a lot of good work done and there are some good, strong characters on the team as well, so it’s up to us as a group to find that positivity and build on it.’
While Flor O’Driscoll agrees that this Sunday’s showdown with Bishopstown is all about the result, he points out that Ilen must perform too.
‘You’re not going to get the result without some level of a good performance and without being mentally strong going into it. What we can do is focus on our performance and hope that it is good enough. I think we can match Bishopstown and we will and we need to go out there and do it,’ O’Driscoll said.
In the group stage Ilen averaged 0-9 in attack per game and conceded an average of 0-24 per game, and they know they’ve work to do. Injuries haven’t helped them. Dan Mac Eoin has struggled with injury and only started one of the three group games, both Dermot Hegarty and Paddy Minihane played their first game against Castlehaven last time out, and Cian O’Driscoll, who came on as a sub against the Haven, has also been struggling with injury. On the flip side young corner back Paddy O’Driscoll has been one of their best and most consistent players while Kieran Lynch, better known in recent years for his golf exploits, has also made an impression since returning to football.
It’s not been an easy few weeks for 2019 quarter-finalists Ilen. They’ve been on the back foot since the opening loss to Newcestown but one win this Sunday will save their season.