BRIAN Shanahan is confident Carbery Rangers will bounce back at the expense of Ilen Rovers in another pivotal Cork Premier SFC local derby this Saturday in Leap (5pm throw-in).
The majority of neutrals and media pundits are predicting Rangers will prove too strong for Ilen in a must-win game for both sides after they lost their Group B openers to Castlehaven and Newcestown respectively.
But Shanahan has been around too long to take a battle-hardened Ilen for granted. Similar to their opponents, Rovers will be desperate to kick-start their Premier SFC campaign having suffered a disappointing 3-17 to 1-7 defeat to Newcestown. Neither side can afford to lose on Saturday.
It’s also worth remembering that Ilen came from nowhere to stun Rangers 2-9 to 1-9 in the opening round of last year’s senior championship. Shanahan and his team-mates have not forgotten.
‘In reality, Saturday’s game is knockout with the way both club’s first championship games ended,’ the Carbery Rangers defender told The Southern Star.
‘Taking the likes of Ilen Rovers lightly is the rock you will perish on. We fell on that sword last year so we will not be taking Ilen lightly. They showed us what they are capable of last year (in the opening round). Ilen has a young team but we will definitely not be underestimating them on Saturday.
‘For me, playing three other West Cork clubs brings that extra bit of excitement rather than pressure. There is something different about going up against lads that you are friendly with and would bump into during the week when it comes to championship. The local element just makes it more interesting rather than adding to the pressure, to be honest.’
Saturday’s clash with Ilen would normally attract a sizeable attendance to Leap. Club players are still adjusting to the new normal of only a handful of spectators being permitted entry to matches. Shanahan is used to playing challenge matches with few, if any, people watching throughout his club career, so how different was it take part in such a hard-hitting county premier senior championship tie against Castlehaven in front of a small crowd in Clon?
‘It was definitely different,’ Shanahan admitted.
‘To be honest, as players, we were zoned in on what was happening out on the pitch. There were a few moments during that game when the lack of a crowd and atmosphere was evident. There was definitely a piece of the puzzle missing whenever the excitement grew, or things heated up out on the pitch. A lack of noise, yes, but everyone got used to the situation after about 20 minutes and just got on with it.’
Carbery Rangers played well despite that 0-14 to 0-9 loss and there was little to choose between the West Cork sides until Castlehaven's shooting proved more clinical in the final quarter. Small margins decided the outcome of what was a cracking Group B clash and left Rangers with plenty to work on ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Ilen Rovers.
‘Looking back, kicking seven points in the first half probably wasn’t enough considering the strong wind we had,’ Rangers defender Shanahan said.
‘We missed a few goal chances as well. After the break, it was a case of Castlehaven pulling away alright although a few unforced errors didn’t help us during that period.’
John O’Rourke, John Hayes and Paul Shanahan’s injury-enforced absences (although Hayes came on as a substitute) were one of the main talking points from that loss. All three are in a race to be fit for this weekend’s game.
‘I would hate to use those three lads’ absences as an excuse for losing the last day,’ Shanahan stated.
‘We had a team out on that pitch capable of beating Castlehaven. Obviously, the two John’s and Paul were big losses, but Carbery Rangers had the personnel that could have won the game for us. They may get another opportunity the next day, I don’t know, but we have players ready and able to step in if needed.’