Nemo Rangers 1-16
Ilen Rovers 3-7
DESPITE Stephen Leonard’s terrific hat-trick, Ilen Rovers bowed out of the county U21A FC.
The South West champions went down fighting in this round one game in Enniskeane as Leonard kicked 3-4, and in the dying seconds it took a marvellous save by Nemo goalkeeper David Horgan from a Leonard drive to prevent an equalising goal.
Ilen can hold their heads high after a battling performance that saw them recovering from a deficit of nine points after 25 minutes to level in the 40th minute.
Nemo full forward Jack Coogan, winning loads of possession in the first 20 minutes, opened the scoring but a pair of points from Stephen Leaonard had Ilen in front. Hard-working Ronan Dalton levelled the scores in the tenth minute.
Very patient in their build-up, Nemo began to win most of the Ilen kickouts and with Kyle Forde, Barry Cripps, Jack Lyons, Eoin Nation and Ronan Dalton dominating the middle third, the city side went on a scoring spree in the second quarter.
Six unanswered points in a row saw Nemo purring and when Aaron Browne sent wing back Eoin Nation through for a cracking goal in the 25th minute, Ilen, who had lost Kevin Minihane to a black card, were in serious trouble, nine points in arrears.
To their credit, the South West champions refused to wave the surrender flag and after Leonard had pointed a free in the 28th minute, their first score in 20 minutes, Joe Hickey followed with a good effort from play. Cronin answered with a Nemo point but on the stroke of half time Ilen struck a major blow when Leonard cut through for his first goal of the game. A relieved Ilen retired at the break only five points in arrears, 1-9 to 1-4.
Nemo wasted little time in again stamping their authority on proceedings after the break with two quick points from Cronin and Coogan, but Ilen were a different side now and with Jack Collins, Sean Minihane, Dermot Hegarty, Tom Bushe, Peter O’Driscoll and Stephen Leonard to the fore, they turned the game on its head in the space of two minutes when the unstoppable Leonard broke through for two wonder goals in the 38th and 39th minutes. A minute late Peter O’Driscoll lofted over the equalising point.
From here to the end we had a ding-dong struggle, with Nemo having a slight edge. Two points from the outstanding Cronin seemed to signal another city takeover but Leonard responded with an Ilen point and only a single point separated the teams at the end of a thrilling third quarter, 1-13 to 3-6.
Sub Colm Kiely doubled the lead but back came Ilen again with a point from Peter O’Driscoll introduced and when jack Lyons and Cronin increased the lead to three, Nomo looked home and dry but Ilen weren’t finished yet.
As the game entered injury time they launched a final assault on the Nemo goal in an effort to grab an equalising goal. Matthew Bushe broke through on the left only to see his shot blocked by goalkeeper David Horgan, and in the dying seconds Leonard somehow managed to hit a bullet from an angle though tightly marked but the goalkeeper again saved splendidly and the ball was scrambled clear.
Nemo Rangers: Mark Cronin 0-7 (5f), Eoin Nation 1-0, Jack Coogan, Ronan Dalton (2f) 0-3 each, Jack Lyons, Robbie Wyse, Colm Kiely 0-1 each.
Ilen Rovers: Stephen Leonard 3-4 (2f), Peter O’Driscoll 0-2,
Joseph Hickey 0-1.
Nemo Rangers: David Horgan; Andrew McGowan, Brian Murphy, Shane O’Dwyer; Eoin Nation, James O’Donovan, Jack Lyons; Barry Cripps, Kyle Forde; Aaron Browne, Ronan Dalton, James Allen; Mark Cronin, Jack Coogan, Robbie Wyse.
Subs: Troy O’Sullivan for K Forde (35), Adam Coleman for J O’Donovan (40), Brian Lyons for J Allen (42), Colm Kiely for A McGowan (43), Luke Horgan for R Wyse (55).
Ilen Rovers: Emmett Hourihane; Paddy O’Driscoll, Jack Collins, Kevin Minihane; Eoin O’Driscoll, Sean Minihane, Donncha Whooley; Dermot Hegarty, Tom Bushe; Matthew Bushe, Donal Collins, Joseph Hickey; Peter O’Driscoll, Aaron O’Sullivan, Stephen Leonard.
Subs: Eoin O’Neill for K Minihane (black card, 20), Barry Collins for D Collins (40).