IT doesn’t seem long ago that Ballincollig and Carbery Rangers contested a couple of county SFC finals in three years and were winning titles for the first time.
Collig made their breakthrough in 2014 under current Cork minor manager Michael O'Brien before their Rosscarbery opponents reversed the result in '16, with ex-Rebel senior boss Ronan McCarthy on board.
Now, though, both are looking at survival entering the final round of group games in the Bon Secours premier senior championship after the pair have yet to collect a point.
Ballincollig lay bottom of Group C following one-point losses at the hands of St Finbarr’s and Clonakilty who have qualified for the knock-out phase while Ross prop up Group B, having been defeated by newcomers Éire Óg and Newcestown.
They are not the only members of an exclusive club which has no attraction whatsoever because Ilen Rovers and Carrigaline are in a similar predicament.
But, Collig and Ilen collide in Ballinacarriga where the permutation is quite simple — win to guarantee safety or depend on results elsewhere.
Ballincollig have a better scoring difference of minus two compared to minus 11 so a draw will condemn Ilen to last place and a possible second consecutive appearance in the relegation play-off.
They preserved their status by beating Bishopstown last term, but it’s the sort of fretful game nobody wants to play.
Ballincollig can consider themselves unlucky to be in such a precarious position and at least their destiny is in their own hands.
Experienced heads like Pa Kelly, JP Murphy, the Kielys, Sean and Cian, Liam Jennings, Noel Galvin, and Cian Dorgan reflect the ability in a side that doesn’t lack nous or quality.
Ilen scored 1-11 and 0-11 in their two games and you wonder if a repeat would be enough, but captain Alan Holland, Stephen Leonard, Peter O’Driscoll, and Dan MacEoin are capable finishers.
Carbery Rangers, who are on minus seven, face a daunting challenge against leaders Castlehaven, who have designs once more on the lone semi-final spot available to the best group winner.
After losing by six points to Éire Óg, Ross were pipped by a point by Newcestown, leaving them vulnerable to a play-off.
Yet, their team is sprinkled with talent like Cork’s John O’Rourke and the gifted John Hayes, but confronting them is a Haven outfit determined to go one better than last season when losing the final to Nemo Rangers.
The Haven provide an array of scorers, Brian and Michael Hurley, to mention just two while Cathal Maguire and Conor Cahalane have goals to their name.
Carrigaline are the most threatened because of their minus 33 scoring difference and must avoid losing, at least, to neighbours Vallley Rovers, who have to win, also.
Group A leaders Douglas meet Nemo, who need the points, as well, and it could be all three will finish on four points with scoring difference coming into play, then.
The Éire Óg-Newcestown tie is also a straight winner-take-all and expect a dog-fight here where the latter’s experience might be a factor while the Barr’s-Clon victors will keep an eye out on the Haven’s progress for that coveted last-four place.
Group A: Douglas v Nemo Rangers, Pairc Ui Rinn; Carrigaline v Valley Rovers, Ballinhassig.
Group B: Castlehaven v Carbery Rangers, Leap; Éire Óg v Newcestown, Kilmurry.
Group C: St Finbarr’s v Clonakilty, Coachford; Ballincollig v Ilen Rovers, Ballinacarriga.