THE odds are certainly stacked against Ilen Rovers ahead of their Cork SFC opener against Ballincollig this Sunday in Macroom (4pm).
They’ve played three games in Division 2 of the county league (and lost all three), they’ve lost a number of experienced players from last season and they’ve had a recent change in the management team after John Minihane stepped down.
It’s not been ideal.
On the flip side, Ilen U21s are through to the South West U21A final after impressive wins against Clonakilty and Castlehaven, and these young guns will help spearhead the club’s SFC challenge.
‘We’ll be blooding a lot of the U21s,’ explained Donal O’Driscoll, part of Ilen’s three-man management team along with Sean Collins and Flor O’Driscoll.
‘Our preparation has been very poor because we can’t field a senior team without our U21 players. The West Cork U21 championship has been their priority the last few weeks.
‘We’ve only played three games and we haven’t had a full team out yet. We lost a number of senior players from last year and we need our U21s to field a team, that’s the reality of it.’
From Ilen’s U21 team, Stephen Leonard, Peter O’Driscoll, Sean Minihane, Eoin O’Driscoll, Jack Collins and Donal Collins are all likely to feature, if not more, and O’Driscoll hopes their recent good run can inspire the seniors.
‘The U21s had good wins over Clon and Haven and showed great grit and determination in those games,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘If we can combine some of the success at underage level that the younger lads have had with the senior players that have been there for a number of years, then hopefully that will carry us.
‘It’s a massive challenge against Ballincollig, one of the top club sides in the county over the past few years, and without the proper preparation, it’s an even bigger challenge again.’
Former Cork U21s Dan MacEoin and Sean O’Donovan will be key men in attack, with Conor O’Driscoll and Alex Hassett in defence – but Ilen have lost a lot of experience, almost the spine of the team with Alan Holland, David Coughlan, Tim O’Regan and Peadar O’Driscoll not involved this season, and neither is Tom Bushe who is in college in Dublin.