TOM Bushe knows that Ilen Rovers must raise the bar if they want to create club history this Saturday night.
The West Cork champions take on St Finbarr’s in the county U21 A football final at Páirc Uí Rinn (8pm), the first time Ilen has ever reached this stage of the competition, and Bushe (19) believes they can finish the job.
‘When you get to a final you have to play better than you have all season if you want to win. The Barrs are an unbelievable side, everyone is talking about them, and we are underdogs on Saturday, which could suit us in one way. If we play as a team and play as we have been all year, we’re confident enough that we can win it,’ Bushe explained.
Ilen have been gathering momentum all season, first emerging as West Cork champions with notable wins against Clonakilty in the semi-final and Newcestown in the divisional final, before beating both Fermoy and Ballincollig in the county rounds.
The bulk of this Ilen team was involved when the club won the minor A county championship in 2014, and those players, including Bushe, are progressing up through the ranks.
‘It’s great to get to this final, it shows that the club is building on its underage success over the last few years. There’s momentum in the club now, with the U21s in a county final and the seniors into Round 4, so it’s exciting at the moment,’ Bushe explained.
‘At the start of the year the focus was on West Cork and trying to get out of that. To win the West Cork is such an achievement these days when you look at the teams that are in it. To win that was great and everything else has been a bonus.’
Ilen’s convincing 2-13 to 2-5 West Cork semi-final win against four-in-a-row chasing Clonakilty was a key moment in this side’s development. It gave them confidence and belief, and they’ve kicked on from there, winning tight battles against Newcestown in the divisional final (1-8 to 0-10) and against Ballincollig in the county semi-final (0-10 to 0-9).
‘We’ve been scraping the wins but that shows the character in the team. Maybe we didn’t have that the last few years but we feel we’ve come a long way, we’re now winning those tight games that we might have lost a few years ago. We’re able to win the big games, and that comes down to the great character in the team,’ the ever-present Bushe explained.
‘It would be massive for the club if we win on Saturday. We’ve never been here before so to win it would be fantastic. It would be a massive boost to everyone, even for the seniors who have a huge game against Castlehaven the week after.’
Tom has two more years at U21, with only three current players on the age – his older brother Jack, Eoin O’Donoghue and Josh Pickett.