ILEN Rovers are taking nothing for granted in their West Cork U21A football championship round one game against Kilmeen this Saturday (March 5th) in Drimoleague, at 4pm.
Defeated semi-finalists the last two seasons (both times beaten by Castlehaven), Ilen will be expected to account for newly-promoted Kilmeen, who won the U21B championship last season.
But Ilen manager Sean Casey is quick to dismiss the tag of favourites ahead of this first-round game, with Carbery Rangers awaiting the winner in a quarter-final expected to be played the following weekend.
‘Kimeen won the B grade last year and they beat us at the U16 grade a few years back so we know that they are a good side. They have been playing Munster junior football lately as well, which is an advantage,’ Casey explained.
‘U21 is all about one game at a time. This is a competition that can throw up surprise results. We have had games over the years where we thought we’d get a result and we haven’t, and other games where it has gone the other way. It’s an unpredictable championship and straight knockout so you have to take it game by game.’
Ilen can call on the majority of last year’s team but will be without Brian Leonard and Conor Harrington who are overage while Oisin Coffey is in London. Cork U21 Sean O’Donovan, Cork minor Sean Minihane and Stephen Leonard will be some of Ilen’s recognisable names, but captain Eoin O’Donoghue is an injury doubt for the opener against Kilmeen, along with Jack Bushe.
Kilmeen have lost three players from last year’s West Cork U21B winning team – Shane O’Donovan, Cian McCarthy and Mike Keohane – but they still have the core of that side, including Damien O’Gorman, Darren Santry, James Clancy, Shane Scannell, Ogie Scannell and Liam Daly.
Kilmeen also contested the county U21B final last season, losing to Cill na Martra by a single point in August, but manager Micheál McCarthy acknowledges that the young blues will be up against it this weekend against Ilen.
‘We’re up against a team whose players have played senior football league so they have an advantage over us in that respect. Preparations haven’t gone as it should have because we are still involved in the Munster junior B competition so that has taken up a good bit of our time. We are a bit behind,’ he said.
‘The majority of players from last year are still available this season. They have that experience from last year so they know what’s expected, which is a help.’