BY DENIS HURLEY
NOT since a loss to Castlehaven exactly four years ago have Clonakilty been found wanting in a Clóna Milk Carbery U21 A FC tie.
Ten consecutive games have been won since then by the men from the Brewery Town, encompassing the last three championships. Ilen Rovers are the side bidding to stop Clon making it 11 on the trot when they clash with them in Sunday’s semi-final at Castlehaven (3pm).
The Baltimore side’s manager Seán Casey has been pleased with how Kilmeen and Carbery Rangers have been seen off to date, though he knows that there is room for improvement.
‘We have two good wins,’ he says, ‘but I don’t think we were at our best in either game.
‘We could have lost both, last week against Ross we were losing with ten minutes left but we showed some good fight and that’s what you want to see.
‘You’d be very happy with how we’re doing defensively but we need to score more, especially against Clonakilty because of the scores they’re putting up. Creating goal chances is something that we’ll have to work on.’
Ilen have fitness doubts about Donal Collins and Eoin O’Donoghue, both of whom had to depart injured against Ross. There is little margin for error as they seek to dethrone the champions.
‘They’re very impressive,’ Casey says, ‘they’re definitely the team to beat.
‘They’ve won the last three championships in a row and they’re going for four, but you look at the calibre of players that they have and you can see why.
‘We’re hopeful that we can give them a test. We’ll try to stay with them for as long as possible and then in championship football anything can happen.
‘We’ve been in the last three semis without winning any of them so it would be a big step.’
For his part, Clon manager Seán Cowhig will be giving a fitness test to Jack Cowhig, who was injured in the 19-point win over Bantry Blues last week. Despite having Cork star Seán White sent off early on, Clon showed no signs of loosening their grip on the game.
‘I suppose you just look at how the boys set themselves up,’ Cowhig says.
‘They played well and then Bantry were missing a few. Our lads were up for the game and they showed that.
‘They have a very good attitude and bring a wealth of experience from U16 and minor, they’re a good bunch of lads.
‘Even when Seán was sent off, we got the next three or four scores. Everyone worked hard and in third quarter the ball was hardly out of the Bantry half, which is very rare when it’s 15 against 14.
‘They all knuckled down when they had to and that’s all that you can ask.’
And there certainly won’t be any talk of four in a row on Cowhig’s watch.
‘Ilen will be strong, definitely,’ he says.
‘A lot of the team were part of the team that had that minor win a couple of years ago so they have experience and will known what it’s all about.
‘We’re just looking at this game because we know we can’t look at anything else. Every championship you have steps to take, this is the next step for us.’