But, a steely, clued in second round performance nonetheless and coach Ned English was well pleased afterwards.
“It was tough going out there tonight, believe me. Dohenys are a gritty lot, they’re not top of the league for nothing,” said English.
“We expected a battle and we got one. What pleased me most was our defensive display. Championships are won by teams who defend well and we were excellent in that department.
“Definitely we are an improved unit from last season, more competitive, tougher. I’m really happy with the performance.”
Tight defensively they certainly were, but they had a few gems up front too, none better than Cork minor Dan McEoin, a real menace every time he touched the ball. He fired in 1-4, his 25th minute goal a real peach. Throw in four points from Kevin O’Sullivan and two from Alan Holland and it proves there is also enough firepower in this hard working unit to be strong title contenders. No question Ilen deserved this second round victory, despite a spirited fightback by Dohenys in the second-half. Winning the toss, Ilen elected to play with the strong wind at their backs in the first-half and they certainly called the tune.
Within three minutes McEoin showed his prowess with a super point, after good work by Holland. He was in again a minute later, this time Conor O’Driscoll doing the spadework .The youngster was simply on fire.
Big Donal O’Sullivan did have a Dohenys goal rightfully disallowed in the ninth minute, but there was no stopping Ilen, who had further points from Kevin O’Sullivan and Holland to lead 0-4 to 0-1 after the opening quarter, Dohenys’ lone reply coming from a Jerry McCarthy free.
With Paddy Hickey, Ciaran Cotter and David Coughlan tight in defence, the Dohenys short passing attacking game was never allowed flourish, all too often smothered out. But Ilen did sparkle at the other end, McEoin the star turn. His 25th minute goal was a gem, excellent refereeing by James Dorgan allowing him shoot home a splendid goal as Dohenys full-forward Donal O’Donovan and Ilen full-back David Coughlan were scrapping it out at the other end resulting in yellow cards for Dohenys’ Jack O’Connell and Coughlan.
And McEoin wasn’t finished yet, an outrageous long distance point pushing his side 1- 7 to 0-3 clear at the interval.
But great battlers Dohenys made a real go of it in the second-half with O’Sullivan and Pat Collins far more influential around midfield. But they were too reliant on McCarthy’s free taking and only managed two points from play overall.
Goalkeeper Darragh Farr converted a 45 to give his side some early second-half impetus and they were the better side in the third quarter, McCarthy’s free taking eating away at the Ilen lead, only McEoin replying with a free.
With Ilen’s lead now down to four points entering the final quarter, 1-8 to 0-7, Dohenys gave it a real go. Ilen keeper Gary Coakley had to save bravely from Patrick McCarthy and they were also grateful Michael Hellen got a finger to intercept a pass that would have put Denis Healy through for a goal that Dohenys so desperately needed.
But that extra bit of Ilen class was to shine through. With Fachtna Collins and Conor O’Driscoll working their socks off, their reply was swift and telling — Kevin O’Sullivan getting his third and fourth points.
And, at the death, Conor O’Driscoll slotted over another, leaving Dohenys with one last chance to advance — a meeting with Newcestown next weekend.
Scorers for Ilen Rovers: D. McEoin 1-4 (1f), K O’Sullivan 0-4, A Holland 0-2, C O’Driscoll 0-1.
Scorers for Dohenys: Jer McCarthy 0-7 (6fs), D Farr (45), D O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
ILEN ROVERS: G Coakley; D O’Donovan, D Coughlan, P Hickey; M Hellen, P Minihane, C Cotter; P O’Driscoll, F Collins; A Coughlan. K O’Sullivan, Conor O’Driscoll; B O’Sullivan, D McEoin, A Holland.
Subs: Cian O’Driscoll for Cotter (45), T Regan for Minihane (55), B Duggan for B O’Sullivan (58), D O’Sullivan for Collins (60).
DOHENYS: D Farr; C Collins, M O’Donovan, K Crowley; T Collins, T O’Donovan, D Collins; P Collins, Donal O’Sullivan; D Healy, S Collins; M Milner; J McCarthy, D O’Donovan, J O’Connell.
Sub: P McCarthy for S Collins (44m).
Referee: J Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).