It is make or break time for Ilen Rovers in their final Bon Secours Cork Premier Senior football championship clash against Ballincollig.
Rovers lost their opening two PSFC Group C matches to Clonakilty (3-10 to 0-11) and St. Finbarr’s (0-17 to 1-11) but showed enough determination and grit in their previous outing against the Barrs to suggest Ballincollig will need to bring their ‘A game’ this weekend.
The West Cork club’s opponents find themselves in similar relegation predicament. Ballincollig are on 0 points but with a better scoring difference (-2 compared to Ilen’s -11). So, Sunday’s encounter is basically a relegation play-off avoidance decider.
With that in mind, Ilen’s Peter O’Driscoll accepts his club didn’t perform in their opening loss to Clonakilty but a much-improved display against St. Finbarr’s has Rovers back on track.
‘We weren’t one bit happy with the way we played in that Clonakilty game,’ O’Driscoll told The Southern Star.
‘We knew ourselves that it wasn’t good enough and that we didn’t do ourselves justice. Going in to the Barrs game it was all about sticking to the system we chose to play. Again, we had a slow start against the Barrs but kept ticking away and it worked up until the last few minutes.
‘Unfortunately for us, St. Finbarr’s are one of the top three teams in the county and with good reason. They just knew how to close out that game a small bit better than we did.
‘We saw the Ballincollig and St. Finbarr’s game online and the way they (Ballincollig) came back from something like 14 points down shows why they are a top tier team. So, we are just focussing on ourselves and preparing to deliver a similar performance to the last day and, this time, closing the game out.’
Last year, Ilen Rovers finished bottom of an all-West Cork group following three consecutive losses. The West Cork club rebounded and saw off Bishopstown 0-18 to 1-6 in a relegation play-off to retain their premier senior status.
It was a terrific performance, full of outstanding individual displays and a glimpse of Ilen’s potential in the most competitive of Cork’s football grades.
‘There were ideal conditions over in Clonakilty that day against Bishopstown which allowed us to play the type of game we wanted,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘I’m only five years playing senior and have been involved in more than enough relegation ties at this stage. We know how to win those games, especially with our backs against the walls. It is all about delivering a performance on days like that. ‘We have been glad of the break since the St. Finbarr’s game, to be honest with you. That was one, hard, tough, physical battle. There were guys carrying a few knocks after it but they have had time to straighten themselves out. It has also given us time to take a good look at what we did right and wrong and prepare properly for Ballincollig.’
So, for the second year running, Ilen face into a final group game looking to avoid competing in a relegation play-off but buoyed by recent performances.
‘Ilen Rovers is fortunate in that our senior panel is made up of the same group of players that won minor and U21 titles,’ O’Driscoll concluded.
‘A good lot of us have come up through the ranks together and as a result, the senior squad has gelled along with the more experienced players. You can’t underestimate the importance of experience.’