ILEN Rovers have to win their final Bon Secours Senior A Football Championship Group 1 game against Newmarket on Saturday (7pm in Cloughduv).
Anything less won’t do as Ilen are currently bottom of the table after two defeats, and they are close to being dragged into another relegation scrap.
‘It’s a big pressure game but in this current format of the championship every game is a big pressure game,’ Ilen joint-manager Diarmuid Duggan said. ‘We’re just trying to keep out of the relegation battle at this point so it’s a must-win game for us. We’re under no illusions of how important it is.’
Having lost their last two games, the Baltimore men have to win to avoid a relegation battle, which is a straight play-off between the two lowest ranked teams (in terms of points won and scoring difference) amongst the three bottom placed teams from the groups. Currently, Ilen, Bandon and Knocknagree have zero points after the opening two rounds. This is not the situation that Ilen wanted to find themselves in, having been relegated from the premier senior grade last season.
‘We had ambitions at the start of the year to do well in this championship. We knew it was going to be difficult,’ Duggan said.
‘Very often, premier teams play senior teams in challenge games so we knew the calibre of teams there before we entered. The sheer number of players we lost was an overriding factor for us but obviously we are disappointed.’
Ilen’s derby loss to O’Donovan Rossa (2-16 to 1-9) in their last game was a bitter pill to swallow.
‘Funnily enough, we were training well coming into that game. Skibb were deserving winners but we were in it for three quarters of the game and their class made them pull away in the end,’ Duggan admitted.
‘I think the most disappointing thing was that there was a point in it but we ended up losing by ten.’
Despite the current group-stage losing run, dating back to 2020, the players still show a good attitude.
‘The lads are training well, they’re resilient. Things haven’t gone their way but they’re still very upbeat. We’re focused on the final game to try to get the win we need,’ said Duggan.
‘A win can do so much for the morale of a group. Essentially if we win, it’s the end of our season. Just to maintain our status in senior A is very important to us and as a club.’
A win on Saturday is a must to avoid another relegation play-off, but also to give the players confidence, which they need going forward.
‘Every game is important but we’re coming off the back of a few losses. It’s critical that we stem that for sure. We do want to maintain our senior A status,’ Duggan added.