HAVING lost the last two finals decisively to Clonakilty, Castlehaven are on a mission of atonement this season.
The year began with the winning of the prestigious Glenville Cup tournament, with a side built mainly on the winning minor team of two years ago.
In the first round they met a very strong Bandon side in Clonakilty. With Michael Hurley flying in the first half before retiring injured, the Haven led by seven points after 45 minutes but had to withstand a late Bandon rally before winning by 2-11 to 1-10. Only a point separated the sides entering injury time until a Conor Cahalane goal copper-fastened the win.
John Cleary provides the brains on the sideline for this young Haven team and he knows they will have it tough against Ilen.
‘We’ve played them a good bit in U16 and minor during the last few years and there’s not a kick of a ball between the sides. We were very lucky to beat them by a few points last year,’ Cleary said.
‘We got a good run when winning the Glenville tournament and those six games were better than training in muck and cold but we got a good fright from Bandon.
‘Inexperience nearly caught us and Bandon were very strong physically. We wouldn’t be as strong physically as the last couple of years. We had five 17 year olds on for that game and only one player up to the age.
‘A lot of our players are away from home so we could only train at weekends but they are fairly fit anyway. The panel is very tight. We’ve lost the last three finals but we lost six in my time so there’s no pressure in that respect. We know it will be tough on Sunday.’
While there is still a doubt over Michael Hurley’s fitness for Sunday, the Haven can call on players like Conor Cahalane, Cathal Maguire, Patrick Bohane, Brian Deasy and Ronan Walsh to pull them through.
Ilen Rovers, with a very limited panel this season, took on Dohenys last Sunday in Aughaville and, after missing several goal chances in the first half and trailing at the break by two points, they put in a powerful second half to win by four points, 2-11 to 1-10.
A top-class performance up front in the second half by Stephen Leonard, who kicked 1-4, was vital to their win.
‘We were delighted with the win,’ said Ilen mentor Sean Casey.
‘We haven’t been doing well since the team of 2008 and 2009 so any win was welcome. It took us a while to get going but we played well in the second half. Stephen is kicking good scores but he’s involved with Cork minors and that takes a lot of time.
‘We’ve found it very hard to get full teams for challenge games because our panel is very tight. We had only two subs on Sunday, with Jack Bushe and Liam Coombes out injured.
‘The Haven must be favoured to win, especially as they have won the Glenville tournament. They’ve beaten us for the past three years, by two points in Dunmanway last year. Most of our team is last year’s minor team and the experience will do them good. We need a boost at the moment for our senior set up.’
As well as Leonard, Ilen will look for big displays from Donal Collins, Josh Pickett, Tom Bushe, Sean O’Donovan and Darragh Casey.
Verdict: Castlehaven to advance to their fourth final in a row.