THERE are more than just local bragging rights up for grabs in the El Skibbico this Sunday afternoon.
When O’Donovan Rossa and Ilen Rovers collide on Castlehaven soil (2pm), the ground will shudder, but both teams are parking the derby element to one side.
‘I will play down the derby side,’ says O’Donovan Rossa manager Gene O’Donovan.
‘We want our lads to focus on ourselves and how good a team they are.’
Skibb fired a statement of intent in their SAFC Group A opener as they hammered Newmarket by 3-16 to 1-10. They were singing in the rain in Macroom, led by Kevin Davis, David Shannon, Elliot Connolly and Donal Óg Hodnett who combined for 3-13.
On the same weekend, Ilen Rovers, relegated from the premier senior ranks in 2021, struggled to readjust to life at Senior A. They slipped to a 1-13 to 1-12 loss to Clyda Rovers in Kilmurry. The general feeling is Ilen didn’t deserve to lose that game. Gene O’Donovan was there, and he agreed.
‘They were hard done by against Clyda. They deserved more than they got,’ he says.
The Ilen camp, despite the loss, was upbeat afterwards too. They didn’t get the result, but they got a performance. They want another one this Sunday.
‘The biggest positive was that we got a pretty good performance,’ Ilen selector Flor O’Driscoll says.
‘A number of things went against us but we kept coming back. The lads gave us a performance and when they do that they have a chance to get the result.’
Worth noting too that Ilen are down half of last year’s championship team for various reasons. Four players made their championship debuts against Clyda. Eoin O’Neill, Shane Carey and Barry Collins all started, and Adrian O’Driscoll came off the bench. Now they are straight into a must-win derby.
Both need to win for different reasons. Skibb want to back up their Newmarket result. Ilen need a good result to breathe new life into their campaign. Forget local honours and who can walk through downtown Skibb with the chest puffed out on Monday morning, this is all about the championship.
‘We want to go further in the championship, we want to qualify for the quarter-finals so we do need to win this game,’ Flor O’Driscoll says.
‘When you are preparing a team you cannot look past the performance and we need to perform very well against a very good team. We are focussed on the performance.’
Gene O’Donovan was pleased with his side’s showing in their opening game, but highlighted they made a lot of mistakes as well. This is a group, the Rossa boss stresses, that wants to achieve something. By doing that he feels they will dispel some of the notions out there.
‘There was a stage in the second half when Newmarket had a go, but we kept at it, we adapted our game to the conditions. We are supposed to be fine-day footballers, as some say, but we have played our best football in wet conditions this year,’ he points out.
‘These lads trained harder last Sunday than they have all year. They are taking nothing for granted. This is a mature team. We are not listening to the noise from outside.’
As the temperature rises this week, it promises to be red hot on Sunday, both on and off the pitch. There’s a lot at stake. O’Donovan Rossa can take nothing for granted. They feel they have a point to prove too after last year’s disappointing Senior A campaign. Same applies to Ilen. They need a win to turn the ship around after a few tough years. That first win will be a line in the sand moment, they hope. They want it on Sunday. But Skibb, despite being neighbours, are in no mood to lie down. The clubs’ first senior football championship meeting since 2010, El Skibbico is set to sizzle.