Ilen Rovers 2-7
STEPHEN Leonard is certainly the man with the goal-den touch in this season’s South West U21A FC.
He scored a last-gasp winning goal for Ilen Rovers in their quarter-final against Clonakilty, and the classy forward bagged a brace of goals in their semi-final win against Castlehaven in Leap on Sunday.
It was to the credit of both teams that they produced a thrilling contest as the biting cold rain and sweeping wind made it almost impossible to play football and in the circumstances, Ilen’s football was top-drawer.
‘It was a shocking day for football but our lads were very composed,’ said Ilen manager Brendan Duggan.
‘We instructed them before the game not to give away the ball and in the circumstances it came down to sheer hard work. I thought we worked very hard, won lots of possession around the middle. Our ball control was excellent in the appalling conditions. On top of that our defence was superb, giving away only a goal and a point from play.
‘We’re delighted to get through to the final. It’s all about momentum at U21 level and we have that now.’
The Haven looked the stronger side in the opening exchanges, with Ronan Walsh doing well at midfield, and Cathal Maguire and Conor Cahalane causing problems up front. Cahalane opened the scoring from a free and Ilen, with midfielders Tom Bushe and Dermot Hegarty emerging as main players, levelled with a point from the strong Peter O’Driscoll.
Maguire and Hegarty swapped scores as the cold rain lashed down and it was Ilen in front, 0-3 to 0-2, at the end of the first quarter when Tom Bushe pointed.
The first decisive moment in the game arrived in the 20th minute when Stephen Leonard eluded the clutches of a tight-marking Haven defence to finish to the net.
It was Ilen in the ascendency then, with Paddy O’Driscoll, Jack Collins, Sean Minihane, Eoin O’Driscoll, Hugh O’Neill, Donal Collins and Matthew Bushe all prominent. A point by Leonard stretched the lead to five points, a good lead in the conditions but there was drama galore as the half drew to a close.
Haven corner back Colin O’Driscoll was black-carded and at the other end of the pitch a high lob by Cathal Maguire was dropped by goalkeeper Emmett Hourihane, understandable in the conditions, and when Kevin O’Donovan won possession, he was hauled down by the goalkeeper.
A penalty for the Haven, a black card for the goalkeeper but sub goalkeeper Ronan Collins became an instant hero when he brought off a great save from Cathal Maguire’s penalty kick, turning the ball out for a 45.
The drama wasn’t over yet, play being held up as a schimozzle broke out between the players. When the 45 was eventually taken Rory Maguire won possession and his cross into the goal area was palmed to the net by Ronan Walsh.
It was 1-4 to 1-2 at the interval and the second half became a real dog-fight in the worsening conditions. Only a single point, a Leonard free, was registered in the third quarter but with the Ilen defence, especially the roving Joseph Hickey, completely on top, Ilen were looking like winners.
Conor Cahalane closed the gap to two with a free but Donal Collins and Peter O’Driscoll, after Daniel O’Mahony had saved superbly from Leonard, pointed to double the lead to four.
Cahalane cut it to three in the 57th minute but the goal that the Haven needed to save the game actually came at the other end of the pitch when Leonard worked his way through to billow the Haven net in the 62nd minute.
Game, set and match to the Church Cross/Baltimore but great credit to both sides for mastering the atrocious conditions on the day.
Ciarán O’Sullivan, David Whelton, Patrick Bohane, Kevin O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll and Rory Maguire were others to try hard for the Haven.
Ilen Rovers: Stephen Leonard 2-2 (1f), Peter O’Driscoll 0-2, Thomas Bushe, Dermot Hegarty, Donal Collins 0-1 each.
Castlehaven: Ronan Walsh 1-0, Conor Cahalane 0-3 (3f), Cathal Maguire 0-1.
Ilen Rovers: Emmett Hourihane; Kevin Minihane, Jack Collins, Paddy O’Driscoll; Hugh O’Neill, Sean Minihane, Eoin O’Driscoll; Dermot Hegarty, Tom Bushe; Joseph Hickey, Peter O’Driscoll, Donal Collins; Matthew Bushe, Aaron O’Sullivan, Stephen Leonard.
Subs: Ronan Collins for E Hourihane (black card, 30), Donncha Whooley for A O’Sullivan (50), Eoin O’Neill for P O’Driscoll (55), Barry Collins for M Bushe (60).
Castlehaven: Daniel O’Mahony; Shane Kearney, Ciara O’Sullivan, Colin O’Driscoll; Patrick Bohane, David Whelton, Liam Browne; Rory Maguire, Ronan Walsh; Aidan Pierce, Cathal Maguire, Kevin O’Donovan; Shane O’Driscoll, Ryan Foley, Conor Cahalane.
Subs: Sean Walsh for C O’Driscoll (black card, 28), Andrew Whelton for A Pierce (42).
Referee: Alan Long (Argideen Rangers).