BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ILEN Rovers are hoping to take their impressive county league form into their Cork SFC preliminary round game against Avondhu this Sunday evening in Coachford (6.30pm).
Ilen sit fourth in Division 1 with four wins – against Newcestown, Naomh Abán, Douglas and Clyda – and one draw (v Ballincollig) from their opening seven league games, which is a big step up from last season when they were involved in a relegation scrap.
Dominic Casey, of Ilen’s new management team, agrees that performances in the league have been encouraging.
‘It’s been our best start to a league in years. Last season we struggled with injuries and form, and the results mirrored that,’ he said.
‘We’ve played some good football this season and we’ve been happy with how we’ve played, apart from the defeat to Clonakilty, which was our worst performance by far. We lost to Castlehaven by a point last weekend but we performed well and were unlucky not to get something from it.’
Casey along with Flor O’Driscoll, David Evans and Davin Whooley form the Ilen management team, while Conor O’Driscoll (physical trainer), Adam Hayes and Liz Evans (stats) are also involved.
Casey expects a hard challenge against divisional side Avondhu this Sunday, and Ilen will be without a number of key players for this first-round tie.
Daniel O’Driscoll (hamstring) and Tom Bushe (hamstring) are ruled out.
Talented young forward Stephen Leonard fractured his thumb against Clonakilty in the West Cork U21 semi-final and has just got his cast off so he is facing another couple of weeks on the sideline. The news is more encouraging for Alan Holland, who is rated a 50/50 chance as he steps up his comeback from a hamstring injury.
Injuries aside, Ilen head into this game in better confidence than in recent seasons, as the conveyor belt of talent is producing some fine young players, plus the club can call on a few county players too – Dan MacEoin (Cork senior), Sean O’Donovan (Cork U21) and Sean Minihane (Cork minor).
‘We’ve had underage success over the last few years and we’re fortunate now that these players are starting to come through. It’s a boost to the club to have good young players on the way up, but, saying that, they need time to get used to senior football because it’s a big step up,’ Casey said.
The winner of Avondhu v Ilen Rovers in the Cork SFC preliminary round game meets Valley Rovers in Round 1. The loser of Avondhu v Ilen Rovers will play the loser of Dohenys v Douglas in Round 2B.