(after extra time)
TOM LYONS REPORTS
STEPHEN Leonard’s last-gasp match-winning goal has sent Ilen Rovers into a Clona Milk South West U21A FC semi-final against Castlehaven on Easter Sunday.
Match hero Leonard was the difference in this quarter-final at bitterly-cold Leap on Sunday afternoon, finishing with 1-7 including all his side’s first-half points and the decisive score – his extra-time winning goal.
With referee Tim Murnane looking at his watch, Leonard won possession 60 metres from the Clon goal, near the Clon dugout. It was goal or nothing, Ilen two in arrears.
Having beaten two Clon defenders, he zoned in on goal. From 20 metres he shot for the bottom corner, along the surface of the grass and even though Clon’s goalkeeper Ryan Doonan went full stretch to get his fingers to the ball, he couldn’t prevent it from nestling in the corner of the net.
‘I knew when I got the ball that we needed a goal to win so there was nothing for it except to try to go for it,’ said a tired but delighted Leonard afterwards.
‘My legs were nearly gone by the time I got close enough to shoot. I picked a spot because I didn’t have the energy to blast it and it just crept inside the post.’
Cork senior goalkeeper Mark White, playing at midfield for Clon, dominated the first half with his height advantage and had the opening two scores, points from long distance, before Leonard kicked a free for Ilen to leave Clon leading by 0-2 to 0-1 entering the second quarter.
Leonard levelled the scores with a second free in the 17th minute but with Peter Walsh, Maurice Shanley, Sean McEvoy and Ross Mannix leading the way, Clon kicked the next two points, from Mannix, and appeared to be getting on top.
But the rampant Leonard kicked three points in a row to put his side in front for the first time. A Clon point from David Lowney had the sides level at the break, 0-5 each.
Points from White, Peter Walsh and Sean O’Donoghue (2) saw Clon move four to the good, 0-9 to 0-5, by the start of the last quarter and looking all-over winners.
To Ilen’s credit they again lifted their game, and points from Matthew Bushe (2) and Leonard made it a one-point game before Leonard levelled the tie in injury-time, 0-9 each.
Extra time saw Clon again hitting the front with Ross Mannix pointing and wing back O’Donovan bursting forward to fist a point. However, they were dealt another blow when full back Conor Scally was red-carded for a totally isolated incident in a sporting game.
It was 0-11 to 0-9 entering the final ten minutes and the lead was down to one when Tom Bushe pointed for Ilen. Mark White answered with a Clon free, two ahead, as the clock entered the red zone but there was one twist left in the story as Leonard showed his class with a superb solo winning goal.
‘It was an amazing way to win the game,’ said Ilen manager Brendan Duggan.
‘In fairness, we never gave up, came back several times during the game. Now we’ll turn our attentions to Castlehaven in the semi-final.’
Ilen Rovers: Stephen Leonard 1-7 (4f), Matthew Bushe 0-2f, Tom Bushe 0-1.
Clonakilty: Mark White 0-5 (2f, 1 45), Ross Mannix 0-3, Liam O’Donovan, Peter Walsh, Sean O’Donoghue, David Lowney 0-1 each.
Ilen Rovers: Emmet Hourihane; Kevin Minihane, Paddy O’Driscoll, Jack Collins; Hugh O’Neill, Eoin O’Driscoll, Joseph Hickey; Dermot Hegarty, Tom Bushe; Donal Collins, Peter O’Driscoll, Donncha Whooley; Matthew Bushe, Aaron O’Sullivan, Stephen Leonard.
Sub: Sean Minihane for D Whooley (45).
Clonakilty: Ryan Doonan; Oisín Walsh, Conor Scally, Paul Daly; Liam O’Donovan, Peter Walsh, Cian O’Donoghue; Mark White, Maurice Shanley; Darragh O’Mahony, David Lowney, Shane Collins; Ross Mannix, Sean McEvoy, Sean O’Donoghue.
Subs: Tiarnán O’Connell for O Walsh (ht), Ruben Henry for S Collins (ht), Liam Halligan for P Walsh (black card, 55), David Walsh for P Daly (65).
Referee: Tim Murnane (St Colum’s).