Champions Ilen wary of threats to crown as title defence begins

March 5th, 2017 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Key player: Ilen Rovers star Sean O'Donovan - in action against Clonakilty last season - has struggled with injury lately but is expected to line out this weekend.

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CARBERY Rangers’ bid to win their opening West Cork U21 A FC game for the first time since 2013 faces a huge test against the reigning divisional kingpins, Ilen Rovers.

Since Ross defeated O’Donovan Rossa in 2013, they have lost their first game in the previous three championships and they’re looking to buck that recent trend in Sunday’s round one game in Ardfield (3pm).

‘We haven’t won a first round game in a few years and now we are playing the West Cork champions so we have a big hurdle ahead of us. Ilen are a good team, they haven’t lost many from last year so we’re up against it – but we’ll give them a good game,’ Ross manager David Creedon said, noting that they lost to Ilen in the opening round last year (0-13 to 0-8).

‘We were closer to them last year than the final scoreline suggests, we just found it hard to tag on the scores at the right times; they had more firepower than us but hopefully we can correct that.’

Ross will look to the experience of senior trio Cathal O’Rourke, Jerry O’Riordan (U21 captain this season) and Robert Hegarty, who were all part of the club’s 2016 Cork SFC panel, while a name to keep an eye out for is Mark Hodnett (brother of Ross senior Padraig), a minor in his first year on the senior panel and who played in the Kelleher Shield already this year (he scored a goal against Castlehaven). John Hodnett, brother of Padraig and Mark, was in with the seniors last season, while David O’Donovan is back for the U21s and seniors after missing last season through injury.

Meanwhile, Ilen Rovers start this season as the reigning champions and the team to beat – but manager Sean Casey is quick to highlight the competitive nature of this championship and that Ilen have lost five players from last year’s team, Eoin O’Donoghue, Josh Pickett, Jack Bushe, Liam Coombes (involved with Munster rugby) and Stephen O’Donovan.

‘It’s a new year, a new competition and there has been a turnover of players, we’re starting over again and our aim now is to get over the
 first round,’ Casey said.

‘I suppose what last year does give us is confidence to know that if we play well we are good enough to win games – but this is a hard competition to win.

‘All we are thinking about is the first game, it’s straight knock-out and there’s not much between the teams so we need to be ready from the start. Look at last year, there wasn’t much between us and any of the teams we played.’ 

Ilen will look to Sean O’Donovan, Stephen Leonard and Tom Bushe for leadership and guidance this Sunday, but O’Donovan, a Cork U21, has been struggling with injury and hasn’t trained much recently. Players to keep an eye out for this season include Peter O’Driscoll and Eoin O’Driscoll, who were involved with the U17 Rebel Óg development panel last season, while Matthew Bushe are Jack Collins are two exciting prospects that are expected to push on.

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