JASON Whooley feels Ilen Rovers have all the ingredients to make an impression in the senior football championship.
Given that he’s chief executive of a growing marine ingredients company (Bio-Marine Ingredients Ireland), and the former chief executive with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, he knows the recipe for success better than most.
Now, as Ilen Rovers’ new senior football manager, the Aughadown man – and his management team of Flor O’Driscoll, Brendan Duggan and Diarmuid Duggan – is determined to make his home club a force to be reckoned with.
‘My view, and I have always had it, is that teams are teams. Whether it’s a football team or a business team, the issues are the same – the environment needs to be right, the culture needs to be right, the strategy needs to be right,’ Whooley explains.
And the time is right for him to take the hot seat. In recent years his work to build and grow Bio-Marine Ingredients Ireland (based in Monaghan) saw Whooley travel internationally on a regular basis – to Europe, America and the United States – so he didn’t have the time to commit to Ilen. But times have changed because of Covid.
‘Basically, we manufacture ingredients from fish and we sell them all over the world, and part of my role has been growing the company but also marketing them, so we spend a lot of time travelling. All of that has ceased since last March and we are doing business in a different way now. I work from my office at home in Baltimore now so if ever there was a time to get back involved with Ilen, it’s now,’ he says.
As a player, he was part of the fairy tale journey that saw the club win All-Ireland intermediate honours in 2004, and he was involved in Ilen’s senior management team in the mid-noughties.
‘In the year I finished playing senior football I was involved in the management team when we went to the 2007 county senior football final against Nemo Rangers,’ Whooley explains.
‘Myself, Flor O’Driscoll and Dominic Casey were the three guys involved in that team. I was a senior selector for the next two years, we went to a semi-final and we lost to Douglas in extra-time, and in the following year we were in a relegation play-off against Mallow that we won to preserve our senior status.
‘I stopped then and haven’t been involved in an adult team since.’
Whooley doesn’t see this Ilen role as pressure. Instead, it’s an honour.
‘Football isn't pressure, it’s meant to be enjoyable and hopefully the lads will enjoy it on the playing field,’ he says.
‘As a management team we are very experienced; we are facilitators for the players and we want to use our experience to get the most out of these players.
‘We want to get them playing to their potential and build up that culture that is important in successful teams, and if that happens to result in good performances and wins, all the better.’
Back in 2019, Ilen turned a few heads when they went to the last eight of the Cork SFC, after shocking Carbery Rangers in the opening round, but last season’s foray into the Cork Premier SFC was forgettable – three defeats to Newcestown, Carbery Rangers and Castlehaven in the group stage. Ilen never got going. They’re fourth seeds for the 2021 Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC so they’re guaranteed a tough draw, again.
Still, Whooley sees plenty to build on.
‘We have a lot of good young players, we have players who have represented the county, we have some very good up-and-coming talents as well, and what we want to do is get them playing to a system,’ he explains.
‘We have a good management team in place with good experience on and off the pitch and we want to give our players every chance to succeed.
‘We won’t be lacking in effort and enthusiasm.’
In his professional life, Whooley has a demanding role. Now, outside of work he has another demanding, but he loves a challenge and now that he has the time to give back to his club, he’s determined to make the most of it.