Ilen determined to bounce back after relegation from top tier

March 1st, 2022 5:30 PM

By Southern Star Team

Peter O'Driscoll in action for Ilen Rovers in their opening 2021 Premier SFC fixture against Clonakilty. Ilen will compete in the Senior A ranks this year.

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IN his own words he has been involved, on and off, with Ilen Rovers for more years than he can remember and for current team mentor Florrie O’Driscoll, the aim for this season is clear.

Despite suffering relegation from the top tier of senior football in 2021, the Ilen Rovers clubman is keen for that group of players to show that last season wasn’t a fair reflection of what they are capable of.

‘Obviously last season was disappointing,’ the Ilen selector admitted.

‘At Premier Senior, every group is going to be difficult. We actually thought we performed well for a lot of the season but towards the tail end we just got caught a bit which was the disappointing thing.’


That Premier Senior group saw them pitted against both eventual county finalists, Clonakilty and St Finbarr’s, along with a strong Ballicollig outfit. They lost all three group encounters and suffered an agonising injury-time defeat to Carrigaline in the play-off which saw them relegated to Senior A for the coming year. However, O’Driscoll feels it didn’t accurately portray their season as a whole.

‘We were very disappointed the way it ended because for the majority of the season, the lads were fantastic. It just finished very poorly for us. We had a number of injuries and struggled to get lads together for one reason or another,’ he explained.

‘We have something like eight or nine players who are outside the county in Limerick, Sligo, Dublin and other places so it wasn’t ideal. There’s a strong core group who have performed very well over the last number of seasons but you need everyone if you are going to compete at that level with some of the bigger clubs.’

They only registered one goal in their four championship games – in their loss to St Finbarr’s – and averaged ten points and that is something O’Driscoll openly admits will need rectifying if they are to challenge this season.

‘That’s definitely something we feel we need to work on,’ he conceded.

‘The disappointing thing is, in the Clon game, we felt it was our decision-making that let us down but against the Barrs we actually created four of five good goal chances. They just didn’t go in for us, for one reason or another.

‘We have to look to get that right. If you’re conceding goals and not scoring goals at that level, you aren’t going to win championship games,’ he acknowledged.

Moving into his fourth season involved with the management team in this current spell, he admits Ilen are anxious to try and right the wrongs of last season. Former Cork footballer Diarmuid Duggan will be joint manager alongside Jason Whooley, with Timmy McCarthy and O’Driscoll as selectors, and collectively they decided to defer a return to training with a specific goal in mind.

‘We just felt that the season is long enough so we held off on going back training too early just to give the lads a bit of a break,’ explained O’Driscoll, as Ilen returned collectively last weekend. He is hopeful it is a decision that will benefit them as the season progresses.

‘When your squad is dispersed throughout the country it is really difficult to get everyone together,’ he said. ‘We just felt that if we were to get lads travelling early in the season, it might impact us later in the year. We want to be in a good place come the latter half of the league and heading into the championship so that’s definitely our focus.’

Given the league format this season where the top five teams from Group 1A and 1B will make up Division 1 for 2023, does he feel this might be a bit of a risk long term?

‘This year, it is going to be a case of taking it one game at a time. It isn’t that we feel we need to be finishing in any particular position. We want to try out players and new things,’ he said.

‘If we perform to the level we feel we are capable of, then hopefully come the end of it, we are in a good position but ultimately we need to be ready for the championship.

Group A of the 2022 Cork SAFC sees Ilen drawn against local rivals O’Donovan Rossa, along with Clyda and Newmarket, in what promises to be an entertaining encounter. But O’Driscoll says they won’t be approaching it any differently.

‘There is going to be very little between the teams so it all depends on how you are going. Obviously with a local derby it is going to make it that little bit more interesting,’ he said.

‘You get the same number of points for winning any of the games so we are going to be very focused on what the game is all about. They are going to be three very difficult games’

‘For everyone around, a local derby is great but for the squad itself we’ll be treating it no differently.’

Only time will tell.


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