A magnificent performance, highlighted by fine individual displays from goalkeeper Gary Coakley, full-back David Coughlan, left half back John Wycherley, corner-forward Jason Whooley and full-forward Kevin O’Sullivan paved the way for the West Cork sides historic seven points final triumph over St Michael’s of Donegal.
It took a great penalty save from Coakley and a penalty conversion by O’Sullivan at the other end to tilt the scales in Ilen’s favour.
Coakley was brilliance personified. Wycherley a class apart, while Whooley and O’Sullivan, who scored 1-7, dazzled up front as Ilen brilliantly staved off the determined bid of St Michael’s to win this inaugural club competition.
Ilen played well in the first-half when facing the stiff breeze. In less than 40 seconds they found themselves a point in arrears, when midfielder Brian McLoughlin put St Michael’s ahead.
After Kieran Daly equalised in the third minute, Ilen turned on the style. Four points in succession from full-forward O’Sullivan launched the new champions on the road to victory. With Wycherley and John Sheehy excelling in defence and David Coughlan doing a fantastic job of containment on Donegal’s Christy Toye, whom St Michael’s played as a third midfielder, Ilen looked destined to garner the honours, particularly when the Collins brothers, Chris and Fachtna, took control of midfield.
But St Michael’s received a much needed lifeline in the 24th minute when full-forward Colm McFadden set up right winger Sean Stewart for a peach of a goal.
Stephen Coyle followed with a point to leave it 0-6 to 1-2 in Rovers’ favour at half-time. But when Toye equalised with a point five minutes after the change of ends the title was really up for grabs. Then came the turning point. Toye passed inside to Stewart, who was taken down in the area. From the resultant penalty Gary Coakley saved from McLoughlin and the heroic Ilen goalkeeper went one better by stopping the rebound from Stewart.
Ilen again upped the tempo and two points from Kevin O’Sullivan, who converted another free, and Fachtna Collins put them back into the driving seat. McLoughlin kicked over a free to leave it 0-8 to 1-4 with 11 minutes of normal time remaining. But then came Ilen’s spectacular surge for victory after the outstanding Wycherley had the ball taken off his foot by St Michael’s keeper Ciaran Gallagher.
Ilen were then awarded a penalty after Chris Collins was illegally challenged after receiving from great play-maker Jason Whooley. Kevin O’Sullivan expertly converted the spot kick and Ilen were on their way to a famous victory. And their triumph was copper fastened by a series of splendid late points from Kevin O’Sullivan, Brian O’Sullivan and Kieran Daly.
: Ilen Rovers: K. O’Sullivan (1-7, 1-6 frees), K. Daly (0-2), F. Collins, B. O’Sullivan (0-1 each). St. Michael’s: S. Stewart (1-0), B. McLoughlin (0-2 0-1 free), S. Coyle, C. Toye (0-1 each).
: G. Coakley, D. Murphy, D. Duggan, D. Coughlan, D. Whooley, J. Sheehy, J. Wycherley, C. Collins, F. Collins, B. O’Sullivan, D. Duggan, E. Sheehy, J. Whooley, K. O’Sullivan, K. Daly, Subs: F. O’Driscoll for Duggan, A. Whooley for C. Collins,
: C. Gallagher E. McBride, G. Gallagher, D. Trearty, J. Sheridan, B. Kelly, M. McFadden, B. McLoughlin, D. Johnston, S. Stewart, M. Gallagher, S. Coyle, P. Stewart, C. McFadden, C. Toye.
: S. Farrell (Dublin).